Google has appointed recently retired Ford Motor Company president and CEO Alan Mulally to its board of directors at a time where the web monolith is increasingly focusing on the automotive area with autonomous cars and in-vehicle infotainment.
Mulally, 68, is also a former CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes and has a background in engineering, and had been tipped for a board role at tech giant Microsoft. On July 1, Mulally handed the reins at Ford over to his deputy Mark Fields.
In his eight years at the head of Ford, Mulally was credited with turning around the company’s financial fortunes through cost-cutting, opportunistic borrowing and streamlining the product portfolio. Unlike Chrysler and General Motors, Ford did not take a government bailout during the Global Financial Crisis.
Mulally will also serve on Google’s Audit Committee.
The appointment of a seasoned Detroit executive seems a timely one and a sign of Google’s desire to push ever further into the automotive sphere.
The company has been working on autonomous (self-driving) cars for years with its Toyota Prius-based robot cars equipped with Lidar technology (which, in very basic terms, uses laser beams to sense its surrounds). The company unveiled its latest prototype on May 28, 2014. That car had no steering wheel, throttle or brakes.
Google plans to deploy more than 100 of the oddball, pod-like fully autonomous pilot cars in trials this year.
Last month Google also premiered its in-car infotainment system, based on its Android operating system, that will sync up phones with the cars systems much like Apple CarPlay. It had already come to terms with a number of global car brands that will equip their cars with the system.
In a Google blog post, Mulally said he was honoured "to serve on the board of a global iconic company that is dedicated to enhancing our lives”.
“I look forward to working together with the Google board and management team to continue to deliver their compelling vision.”
Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page said: “Alan brings a wealth of proven business and technology leadership experience. I am so pleased that Alan is now joining Google’s board!”