Cars and software go hand in hand, for better or for worse. On the one hand, software is powering autonomous vehicles and safer infrastructure; at the same time, software is enabling vehicles to purposely pollute the planet to dangerous levels and allowing hackers to take over vehicles in motion. Finally, the high-tech computer systems that are powering today’s cars are something of a sore point with individuals who once repaired their own vehicles, only to find now that the gadgets under the hood aren’t a DIY project.
But Ford’s announcement that it has invested in software company Pivotal will hopefully turn the tide of negative impressions aimed at the tricky world of tech-and-automotive collaboration. In addition to the $182 million the automaker just poured into the Palo Alto-based company, Ford’s Chief Information Officer will join its board.
Pivotal already has a working relationship with Ford, and has created the software that has powered a few key Ford innovations, including the FordPass smartphone app. As Ford’s CEO explained in a pointed analogy to the Detroit News, this new, stronger partnership is like moving from just dating to actually getting married.
How solid is this marriage? Ford and Pivotal are opening new facilities to develop automotive software, and once new software is created Ford will have a streamlined process for integrating it into their vehicle design without all the hassle of purchasing, licensing, working around copyright, and more. As part of the Pivotal team, the speed with which Ford can upload new software to its vehicles will be dramatically reduced.
Given the recent software glitches and hacking vulnerabilities in automotive software, let’s hope this speedy approach pays off for both parties involved. One unfortunate result of this new partnership could be an even bigger stall in Ford’s work with Google on autonomous cars, which hit a wall earlier this year.