Apple, Tesla Exec Doug Field Moves Back to Ford

  • Decades ago, Doug Field worked as an engineer at Ford before leaving to work at Segway, Apple, and Tesla. He was involved in launching the Tesla Model 3 as well as Apple’s secretive automotive project.
  • Now back at Ford, Field will be “chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer” and will report directly to CEO Jim Farley.
  • Farley said Field’s work at Ford will include next-generation “digital vehicles” as well as “always-on experiences for our customers that get better and better over time.” Hiring him away from Apple is a strong sign that they’re taking this technology extremely seriously.

    After helping to launch one of the most anticipated electric vehicles ever, the Tesla Model 3, and working at Apple on its still-mysterious special vehicle project, Doug Field has come back to Ford as chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer. Field worked at Ford as a development engineer from 1987 to 1993 before stints at Apple, Tesla, and Segway.

    Field’s latest move has prompted all sorts of online speculation about what it means for Ford as well as for whatever it is that Apple is working on in the automotive field, including plenty of people saying Field’s departure is the final nail in the Apple Car coffin. For its part, Apple released a short statement to the media, obtained by the Wall Street Journal: “We’re grateful for the contributions Doug has made to Apple and we wish him all the best in this next chapter.”

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    For his part, Farley is ebullient about his new employee, tweeting that Field is “one of the top product leaders from Apple, Tesla & Segway” and that Farley is “thrilled to work with Doug on the next generation of digital vehicles [and] always-on experiences for our customers that get better and better over time.”

    Field will be in charge of Ford’s Embedded Software and Hardware group, which includes working on “infotainment, navigation, driver-assist technology, connected services and vehicle cybersecurity” projects as well as Ford’s Blue Oval Intelligence tech stack and Ford Power-Up over-the-air updates. Field will also “[manage] relationships with key technology partners and the digital developer ecosystem.”

    Farley hinted a bit more at what those always-on experiences might be in a corporate statement. “[Field’s] talent and commitment to innovation that improves customers’ lives will be invaluable as we build out our Ford+ plan to deliver awesome products, always-on customer relationships and ever-improving user experiences. We are thrilled Doug chose to join Ford and help write the next amazing chapter of this great company.”

    That chapter is likely to include digital products that Ford can regularly charge customers for, a move that a number of automakers are exploring as a way to make money off their customers after they’re purchased the car. The WSJ notes that Ford already offers fleet customers monitoring services for their vehicles for maintenance issues like oil changes or, for electric vehicles, the state of charge and when it makes sense to plug the EV in. As an example, Ford has said that its BlueCruise hands-free driver assistance software will cost $600 for a three-year subscription.

    Speaking to reporters about his new company, Field hinted he’s happy to be back at a long-standing automaker. “It’s awfully fashionable to start either autonomy companies or car companies,” he said in an interview, according to the Wall Street Journal. “Many of them won’t have the staying power, the resources, the capabilities. Making vehicles is actually really hard.”

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