Ford CTO: Google has been a good partner

If you believe Ford CEO Mark Fields, the blue oval is transitioning from a pure car company to that of an auto and mobility company.

In addition to building and selling cars, Ford is moving into ride sharing, autonomous driving and other forms new mobility.

It’s easy to see why: Ford controls about

6% of the $2.3 trillion a year automotive industry, but generates virtually no revenue from the $5.4 trillion a year transportation-services industry.

The latter includes mass transit, ride sharing, and taxis.

Ford wants to change this and the man tasked with making this transition happen is Ford CTO Raj Nair.

Nair, who has been with Ford for nearly 30 years, has helped develop some of the company’s most successful and visible products, including the F-Series truck, Explorer SUV as well as two generations of the Ford GT supercar.

The long-time Ford executive sat down with Business Insider at the company’s sizable stand at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show. Here are the main takeaways from our talk.

On balancing Ford’s expanding mobility business with its core car business:

“We certainly still have a strong focus on our core business of designing, building, selling and services cars, trucks and sport utilities,” Nair said. “And so we don’t view [the growth of our mobility business] at the expense of our core business.”

“Many of the aspects of mobility are either complementary or actually critical to keep our core business healthy,” he added.

Nair keyed in on aspects of new mobility such as connectivity, big data, analytics, user experience, and even autonomous vehicles as developments that are important to keeping Ford’s core car business at the forefront of the industry.

On how Ford’s R&D is changing due to technology:

“The vehicle is becoming the largest piece of consumer electronics a person will own,” Nair said. “Electronics is embedded into everything we do these days.”

To reflect that, the company has drastically increased the number of electronics and hardware engineers in recent years relative to mechanical or powertrain engineers.

On the Ford and Google’s relationship:

Ford announced this week that its new SYNC 3 infotainment system will feature Google’s Android auto functionality.

“Google has been a great partner on the development of Android Auto and its integration into the SYNC system.”

However, Nair declined to elaborate on Google’s involvement with Ford’s autonomous drive program.

“We are working with a lot of people on autonomous driving, such as Velodyne,” Nair said, “Obviously a lot of those discussions are private and I’m not able to comment of who we are talking to.”

On Ford’s future propulsion:

“Offering choice is going to be key,” Nair said. Although the solutions will be different based on the taste, location and needs of the customers, but electrification will certainly one of those choices, Nair added.

Ford’s powertrain offering will continue to feature a combination of gasoline, diesel, electric, and hybrid models, but electrification will be an increasing percentage of that mix. To reflect this growing segment, Ford has invested $4.5 billion in electric powertrains.

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