Ford Invests In Software Firm, Develops Mobile Wind Tunnel

DEARBORN — Ford Motor Co. this week announced an investment in a San Francisco software firm — and the world’s first fully mobile wind tunnel.


The $182.2 million investment in Pivotal Software Inc. comes on the heels of the two companies working together to develop mobility software like shuttle applications.

Officials with the automaker say the investment is part of the continuing shift of Ford becoming a mobility company — adding expertise in connectivity, autonomous vehicles, data and analytics, along with carbuilding.

Under the investment, Ford and Pivotal now will expand the use of advanced software development methodologies, analytics tools and a cloud platform throughout Ford’s Product Development and IT teams, including new software labs to support the Ford Smart Mobility initiative.

Also, Ford CIO Marcy Klevorn will join the board of directors at Pivotal.

“Expanding our business to be both an auto and mobility company requires leading-edge software expertise to deliver outstanding customer experiences,” said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO. “Our investment in Pivotal will help strengthen our ability to deliver these customer experiences at the speed of Silicon Valley, including continually expanding FordPass – our digital, physical and personal mobility experience platform.”

FordPass, jointly developed with Pivotal, will offer new customer services, like remote access to vehicles through a smartphone app, and mobility solutions, such as parking and car sharing.

Pivotal’s advanced software development methodologies and cloud platform complement Ford’s already strong embedded software capability that supports EcoBoost engines, the Sync 3 connectivity system, driver-assist technologies like active park assist and more.

Software plays a growing role in new vehicles —  the F-150 features more than 150 million lines of code, compared to a typical smartphone operating system’s 12 million lines. Engineers are capitalizing on software to deliver precise control over aspects of vehicle performance such as engine and transmission calibration to improve fuel economy and for the connectivity experience by giving customers hands-free access to their smartphones.

“Investing in Pivotal builds on our current strengths in software development,” Klevorn said. “We plan to quickly add new state-of-the-art software engineering capabilities across the Ford enterprise.”

In addition, Ford and Pivotal plan to open new software labs in strategic locations in both the United States and Europe. The labs will be staffed with software architects, engineers and user experience experts – all using Pivotal’s advanced software development methodology.

Ford also announced a patent-pending mobile aeroacoustic wind tunnel that can produce wind speeds up to 80 mph, then be broken down and reassembled in just hours at any Ford assembly plant in North America.

The tunnel is intended to benefit Ford wind noise engineers both professionally and personally – improving productivity by reducing the test cycles from weeks to hours, and shortening time spent on the road to enable a better work-life balance

Ford says it will allow engineers to solve wind noise problems more quickly without having to move cars and staff to Ford’s main wind tunnel in Allen Park. Issues requiring assembly process refinement can be detected and resolved earlier, since everybody involved is on hand.

The mobile wind tunnel is built inside two 53-foot shipping containers. Each includes aeroacoustic vanes and internal ducting to provide smooth, controlled airflow at the nozzle end of the machine, while two 16-bladed, six-foot-diameter ducted fans – each powered by a 250-hp electric motor – deliver a maximum blast of 80-mph wind. A series of doors around the containers ensure the sections remain secure during transport or storage.

Ford wind tunnel

The machine consists of the two main containers fastened together side by side on flat, level tarmac. In between, two roll-up doors are lifted, while doors on the front and back ends are opened to create the air intake and outlet nozzle. A third, 40-foot container – housing a small office, power distribution and controls – is placed nearby, and data and power cabling are connected between the containers.

The entire operation can be broken down within a day, shipped to any Ford North American assembly facility via truck, then reassembled at the new site and ready for testing within hours.

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