Ford and Google announced a six-year strategic partnership in which they will collaborate on new technologies and install Google’s Android operating system as the primary system in its infotainment screens in millions of Ford and Lincoln cars and trucks starting in 2023.
Android’s operating system will enable drivers to access Google Maps for in-vehicle navigation and Google’s Voice Assistant for handling voice commands in the car without the use of an Android phone. Ford vehicles have come with the automaker’s proprietary Sync system since 2007, which has been featured across its portfolio. It is not clear whether Ford will continue to use the Sync name on this new system.
Starting in 2023, Ford cars will also begin offering an in-car version of the Google Play Store to download apps for things like music, audiobooks and podcasts.
In addition, Google will also be Ford’s preferred provider for cloud data storage, executives from Ford and Google said. Ford will also use Google’s artificial intelligence and data analytics capabilities to better interpret the data it collects from vehicles and its own operations to improve upon things like customer service, manufacturing and marketing.
General Motors (GM) recently announced a similar arrangement with Microsoft in which Microsoft will be the cloud storage provider for GM and Cruise, the autonomous car company majority owned by GM. Ford and Google did not specifically say if Google’s cloud computing systems would be used for autonomous vehicles, as in the GM and Microsoft deal.
As part of their partnership, Ford (F) and Google (GOOG) will create a group called Team Upshift that will collaborate on new ways the companies can work together. Executives from Ford and Google imagine, for example, that the team will work on things like improving the online car shopping experience using customer data.
The companies did not reveal the financial terms of the arrangement.
This is Google’s first large-scale partnership with an automaker, although Volvo and its Polestar electric vehicle spin-off use the Android operating system in some of their vehicles, with plans for more in the future.
User interfaces and in-car navigation systems have become critical for automotive customers, said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction at J.D. Power. Car owners have become used to the sort of ease of use and costumization they enjoy on their smartphones, she said. They often end up being disappointed when their vehicles don’t deliver on that.
“They’re looking for this extended relationship,” she said. “For the vehicle to know them personally,” she said.
In newer models, such as the Ford Mustang Mach-E and the redesigned F-150, Ford vehicles can download software updates “over the air,” like smartphones can, so customers don’t have to visit a dealership for software upgrades. That will also be true for vehicles with the new Android Auto operating system.
Drivers with Apple devices will still have access to Apple CarPlay so they can use their phones through the car, as well. Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant will also continue to be offered in the vehicles for customers who prefer it.