Ford Motor Co. is extending its mobility arm to Europe.
The Dearborn-based automaker plans to open a Ford Smart Mobility office in London. That new location will have the capacity for 40 employees on the Here East campus, a 1.2-million-square-foot business incubator and co-working space set up in part of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
That makes three Smart Mobility offices for Ford, a company now fighting to establish itself as a forward-looking — and acting — company in what’s becoming an unpredictable automotive industry.
“Basing our rapidly growing team here in the heart of mobility innovation in London is critical to accelerating our learning and development of new technologies,” said Steven Armstrong, Ford group vice president and president of Europe, Middle East and Africa, in a statement. “The location at Here East will allow us greater collaboration and the out-of-the-box thinking needed to tackle the urban transport challenges of tomorrow.
“We will also be ideally placed to build on existing partner projects and have access to London’s world-class digital talent. Both will be key as we build towards our ambition of being a global leader in mobility solutions”
Ford currently has Smart Mobility offices in Dearborn, near its headquarters, and in Palo Alto, California, where to company plans to double its workforce to 300 and build a new 150,000-square-foot office space in the West Coast tech hub.
The overseas move comes a few weeks after the new tech-minded CEO and President Jim Hackett took the helm to push the company to adapt in the rapidly morphing auto-and-mobility sector. Ford leadership and industry analysts have frequently said the company needs to do a better job of communicating — and delivering results — in its tech-minded fields.
The company is in the early stages of a 10-year overhaul of its Dearborn footprint. The estimated billion-dollar renovation on its World Headquarters campus and the product development center near The Henry Ford. The Smart Mobility unit has plans to invest $1 billion in Argo AI to develop the brains of its self-driving vehicles.
The company also plans to triple the size of its autonomous vehicle fleet this year to a total of 90 vehicles. Ford has said it will have a fully driverless car without a steering wheel or pedals for braking and acceleration in 2021.
But Ford has trailed crosstown rival General Motors Co. on the autonomous front for some time, and it will be the new leadership’s job to prove Ford is a contender in the new field. On Tuesday, GM said it has 130 self-driving test vehicles ready to deploy in San Francisco, Scottsdale, Arizona, and Metro Detroit. Those vehicles would join 50 already toad testing.
Ford has been more tight-lipped about its autonomous operations.
The Smart Mobility office in London will boost research and development in the entire mobility segment, according to a news release. The mobility segment encompasses autonomous vehicles, ride-sharing, connected vehicles and shuttle services, among other things.
According to a news release, the London-based team will target “near-term development of smart mobility solutions that meet the needs of Europe’s major cities.”