USA automaker Ford Motor Co said on Wednesday it opened a research center in Tel Aviv, becoming one of several global automakers beefing up operations in Israel to take advantage of the country's vibrant technology sector.
The facility, opened by the company's executive chairman Bill Ford, will be an integral part of the U.S. auto maker's vision of designing smart vehicles.
Ford said its new center will operate in close coordination with the company's machine learning unit, SAIPS, which the USA carmaker acquired about three years ago. The company also maintains research centers in Aachen, Germany, Nanjing, China and Dearborn, Michigan. The center will include a vehicle lab to support proof of concept efforts and AI work.
Ford has been working with local companies and partners in Israel's tech community for many years.
After announcing its partnership with Aurora in early 2018, VW last June began discussions with Ford to develop a range of commercial vehicles, later extending the discussions to include electric vehicles and Argo's autonomous driving technology as part of an alliance created to save billions in costs. "This new center is not only an expansion of our existing Research and Innovation centers but provides an opportunity to join a growing innovation community in Israel".
"This really becomes the lifeblood of what Ford Motor Co. will be in the future", Ford said at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Udy Danino, founder and CEO of Ford-subsidiary SAIPS AC Ltd. will be the new center's technical director.
He told Automotive News the site would start small, with roughly 10 to 12 workers, but likely would grow quickly, similar to Ford's research center in Palo Alto, Calif., which opened in 2015 with a small staff that has grown to about 250 today.