Joining Israeli innovation race, Ford opens Tel Aviv research hub

The company is seeking to identify start-ups in the fields of connectivity, sensors, automated-systems research, in-vehicle monitoring and cybersecurity.

June 13, 2019 03:36
2 minute read.
Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Company at the opening of the Ford Research Center in Te

Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Company at the opening of the Ford Research Center in Tel Aviv, June 12, 2019. (photo credit: ITAI NADAV)


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Joining the race to secure Israeli automotive technology, the Ford Motor Company opened a new research center in the heart of Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

The Ford Research Center, the company said, will assist its global Research and Advanced Engineering team, and identify local technologies and start-up companies to support Ford’s automotive and mobility businesses.

The company is seeking to identify start-ups in the fields of connectivity, sensors, automated-systems research, in-vehicle monitoring and cybersecurity.

“We recognize the importance of being in one of the world’s leading innovation communities and ecosystems,” said Bill Ford, the executive chairman of the American automotive giant, marking his first visit to Israel. “This new center is not only an expansion of our existing Research and Innovation centers, but provides an opportunity to join a growing innovation community in Israel.”

Michigan-based Ford entered the Israeli market for the first time in August 2016, acquiring Tel Aviv-based computer vision and machine learning company SAIPS to advance its vision for autonomous vehicles. The company invested an additional $12.5 million in SAIPS in November 2018.

Udy Danino, founder and CEO of SAIPS, has been appointed as technical director for the new center.

“Expanding Ford’s presence in Israel with the new Research Center will allow us to engage with the best technology and leading companies a lot faster, and further support Ford’s goals of bringing together our vehicle and technology expertise to create new solutions to meet the mobility challenges of today and tomorrow,” Danino said.

The research center is located in Tel Aviv’s Adgar360 tower, joining the company’s existing network of research centers in cities including Aachen in Germany, Nanjing in China and Dearborn, Michigan.

The center will include a vehicle lab to support proof of concept (POC) efforts and artificial intelligence developments conducted by the SAIPS team.
Founded in 1903, Ford aims to have a fully autonomous vehicle in commercial operation by 2021.

The vehicle, the company says, will be a level 4-capable vehicle, in which the car can handle entire journeys without driver intervention. Ford plans to design the vehicle to operate without a steering wheel, gas or brake pedal, and emphasizes its potential use in commercial mobility services such as ride sharing and ride hailing.

“No company can do it alone, and that’s why we need the ecosystem,” Ford told industry executives and entrepreneurs on Tuesday at the EcoMotion conference in Tel Aviv. “So much of what is happening here will inform our future.

“We have had many evolutions in the automotive industry, but not revolutions,” Ford said. “Now that’s all changing. The company that integrates technology that enhances people’s lives will be the company that wins.”

With the establishment of its research center, Ford joins a growing list of automotive companies with a permanent presence in Tel Aviv.

On Monday, French-Japanese automobile manufacturer partnership Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance launched its innovation lab at Tel Aviv’s Atidim Business Park.

Other manufacturers with Tel Aviv-based innovation centers include South Korea’s Hyundai Motors, German multinationals Daimler and Volkswagen, Sweden’s Volvo, Michigan-based General Motors and high-performance car manufacturer Porsche.

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