Ford on Monday named Paul Ballew, a research expert who previously held positions at General Motors, Nationwide and Dun & Bradstreet, to the post of chief data and analytics officer. He is the first to hold the title at the 113-year-old automaker.
Ford, in a statement, said Ballew will lead a team of experts that will help the company “better understand consumer behavior and help speed development of the mobility, connectivity and autonomous driving innovations that will improve people’s lives.” That will include everything from pushing data to Ford’s Sync infotainment center to help drivers steer clear of traffic jams, to using so-called black boxes to assist in the re-creation of accident scenes.
“We are committed to making people’s lives better through innovations on mobility, connectivity, autonomous vehicles, performance and customer experience,” said Ford CEO Mark Fields in a statement. Ford recently moved the Sync platform from technologies made by Microsoft to BlackBerry’s QNX system. Sync had been criticized as poky and hard to use compared to rival technologies, such as General Motors’ OnStar and Chrysler’s Uconnect.
Horwitz said most automakers allow consumers to opt out of programs through which their vehicle information might be shared with marketers or used for other purposes. Ford owners can even use a tool on syncmyride.com to adjust privacy settings. But she noted that laws are still evolving and that technology has outpaced many provisions of the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994, which puts limits on information that can be shared by state motor vehicle departments and other entities that collect driver data.
As cars become more like big mobile devices on wheels, they also become susceptible to the same security problems that have plagued smartphones and PCs – but with much higher stakes. In a test sponsored by Tesla, Chinese hackers successfully infiltrated a Tesla Model S, taking control of the door locks and other key systems.
“As you get more software in vehicles, you get more software issues,” said Thilo Koslowski, VP and automotive practice leader at research firm Gartner. “Security is going to have to be bulletproof.”