In this way, Ford’s API strategy, fueled by the cloud, has expanded Ford Pro’ value proposition for its larger commercial customer segment, making Ford a cloud software vendor in its own right.

“We have this combination like any large enterprise cloud software vendor,” says Musser, who has also served as Ford’s director of data and analytics for autonomous vehicles, and director of platform engineering for FordLabs. “We use the cloud software that we’re building. The embedded software in the vehicle goes all the way up the cloud.”

Technology at the center

Technology acquisitions and partnerships are another key enabler of Ford’s high-tech transformation.

In 2021, Ford acquired Silicon Valley startup Electriphi for its EV charging management and EV fleet monitoring software. The services, which are now part of Ford Pro’s services offering, are being enhanced with advanced charging and energy management services for the division’s commercial customers.

Ford Pro’s services arm also uses digital tools to provide automated reporting and maintenance of commercial pickups and vans to help customers optimize EV mileage and annual battery use. The ability of all SDVs — combustion-based, hybrid, and fully electric — to feed data up to the cloud provides developers with a plethora of unique opportunities to build algorithms that optimize, and in some cases, automate, vehicles.

On the security side, for instance, Ford announced a partnership in early 2022 with ADT called Canopy to develop a series of AI-powered connected security cameras and corresponding mobile application that guards the pickup and van fleets of commercial customers. This advanced security service saves commercial fleet operators in labor and provides more comprehensive security for the fleets at home or on the road, Musser says.

In addition, Ford has employed UiPath and Pega robotic process automation (RPA) software to automate business processes and, in conjunction with IoT devices, many subsystems within vehicles. For several years, Ford has been developing algorithms to upgrade vehicles with more sophisticated technologies and services such as order allocation optimizers and parts optimizer algorithms, as well as services such as Blue Cruise automated driving capabilities.

Ford’s forthcoming use of AI will further enhance those services, says Musser, noting supply chain optimization and customer demand matching among the key machine learning algorithms Ford is developing today.

AI everywhere

Ford also plans to leverage generative AI across the company, though that initiative remains in its infancy, Musser says.

To that end, the automaker has launched several pilots using natural-language AI in call centers and within the developer ranks. One pilot under way in the call center, for example, “enables agents to search faster through large amounts of documents and various data types to better classify identifying patterns in call center data segmentation, and sentiment analysis,” Musser says.

Ford’s Office 365 workforce and developers are also actively using Microsoft Copilot in production, he says, adding that, while human developers must still ensure accuracy and quality control of algorithm development, the Copilots have demonstrated value.

“Copilot tools help save you minutes in writing test-case boilerplate code with anywhere from 20% to 40% in assistance predicting what piece of code is necessary to write functions,” Musser says. “Trust me, we’ve seen productivity improvements in development.”

As AI continues to advance, it’s not clear what future technologies will be embedded in software-defined vehicles, but what is evident, Musser says, is that the innovations used to make internal processes at Ford more efficient and profitable will also be intricately embedded with the vehicles sold to customers.

After all, that’s long been considered a key recipe for high-tech company success.

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