Senior executives from Ford Motor Company are currently touring Israel, seeking out start-ups that might be able to contribute to the firm’s connected vehicle technology system.
“A lot of new technologies, not only software, get developed here,” Andreas Brockers, a business strategy analyst for Ford’s connected vehicles & services division, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. “Maybe in the multi-connected car space is where I saw the most interested people, with all those new pieces of technology.”
This week, Brockers is meeting with a variety of Israeli innovators at meet-ups in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Herzliya, as part of a “pre-event city tour” ahead of Ford’s Make It Driveable AppLink event in Paris this October. At the Make It Driveable gathering, which is occurring for the fourth time, start-ups will have the opportunity to demonstrate how their technologies might be able to work with Ford’s SYNC AppLink entertainment system.
The SYNC AppLink feature in Ford vehicles enables drivers to use voice commands and steering wheel buttons to control a variety of apps on their smartphones or other devices – providing access to Internet radio streaming, podcasts, sportscasts or functions like ordering food. It is the hope of Ford’s connected vehicles team that innovators in Israel and around the world will be interested in implementing their ideas in combination with AppLink, according to Brockers.
After inaugural Make It Driveable events in Tel Aviv and Dublin in 2015, Ford held a similar convention last year in Berlin and this October will be continuing the tradition in Paris. While the innovators must pay for their own attendance, they are required to pass through a selective application process to attend the event, where they will receive mentorship from senior managers, participate in focus group, pitch ideas and get feedback, Brockers said.
“We say that if you participate, you quote-un-quote already won,” Brockers said. “You get so much traction and so many connections and the possibility to fast-track your idea, and maybe even to partner with someone with Ford, have an investment made by Ford and talk to our senior executives that are there who have a lot of influence.”
In addition to seeking out Israeli innovators ahead of the event, Brockers said he is making stops in Turkey, the Netherlands, Estonia, Austria, France, the United Kingdom and Germany.
While in the past, the Make It Driveable gatherings have concentrated primarily on consumer-facing apps, this year the focus will be divided among five specific tracks, Brockers explained.
The first category will include commercial and fleet oriented apps that employ telematics – or the transmission of long-distance data in real-time to an organization, he said. The second focus area will involve multi-connected cars, broadening connectivity from smartphone use to vehicle-to-vehicle communications. Within this area, innovators might explore how the smartphone and Ford’s embedded modem might be able to interact and enable new usage opportunities, Brockers added.
Also of interest to Ford are mobility apps that offer multi-modal solutions or smart city initiatives, as well as personal assistant and business productivity apps. A final track at the event will concentrate on vehicle data monetization – or how Ford can use the data generated in the car to enhance people’s lives, Brockers explained.
While Israeli start-ups tend to excel in all five of those tracks, Brockers said they tend to have particular expertise in the multi-connected car space. After holding an initial Make It Driveable event in Tel Aviv in 2015, the Ford team therefore decided that returning to Israel was critical.
“That event showed us from Ford that we need to do more events here, and at least if we don’t do a big event in Tel Aviv, that we need to add it to our city tour and talk to start-ups again,” Brockers added.