MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF. – T. J. Giuli comes full circle this week as Ford officially launches the Silicon Valley research center he runs.
Giuli joined Ford’s Dearborn, Mich., labs nine years ago, fresh out of engineering grad school at Stanford University. He’s been working on setting up Ford’s presence in Silicon Valley “philosophically for a long time, but the actual work of finding and setting up an office has come just in the last few months,” he said at a Ford event here.
It’s a modest beginning, just four engineers in a Palo Alto office a few blocks walk from Stanford. Giuli hopes to hire about a dozen more—a mix of engineers and business people—over the next two years.
Although the team is small, it’s ambitious. Under a project called OpenXC, it is prototyping open source hardware and software that would let drivers upgrade their vehicles.
Specifically, the group has created a variant of Google Android that provides access to data from dozens of sensors on a car’s CAN bus, and it has developed a few example apps running on it. It aims to see just what it would take to make a Ford the next open source mobile platform for third-party developers.
Currently, Ford publishes APIs for Android, iOS and Blackberry environments so developers can create apps for the Synch in-car infotainment systems Ford co-developed with Microsoft.
The Ford lab also is prototyping technologies that would let drivers install their own modular hardware upgrades for devices such as built-in navigation and audio systems--even displays. Imagine your new TomTom or Blaupunkt as a USB plug in.
Ford is relatively late to the Silicon Valley party. Japanese, German and even some U.S. car makers have had high tech labs here for years because the area has become a hotbed of automotive startups, a BMW advisor said recently.
Stanford grad T.J. Giuli returned to Palo Alto as head of Ford's four-person research lab.