Skip navigation
2022 Mustang Mach-E Ice White Appearance Package_01.jpg Ford
Battery-electric Mustang Mach-E in vanguard of Ford's technological initiatives.

Ford Readying New 100% Software-Driven Vehicle Architecture

CEO Jim Farley says Ford has a new architecture fully updatable by software.

Ford CEO Jim Farley says he is reviewing the automaker’s first vehicle architecture for its future battery-electric vehicles that is 100% updatable via software.

Farley makes the comment during a year-end gathering of media at which both he and Ford chairman Bill Ford talk about the issues confronting the automaker heading into 2023.

“I’m really excited. I just came from a review of our new architecture with (Chief Advanced Product Development and Technology Officer) Doug Field,” Farley says.  “It’s our first architecture that will be 100% updatable by software.”

Details of the architecture are not yet available. General Motors has built its Ultifi BEV architecture on Linux open-source software. Linux software allows GM to give authorized third-party developers access to a platform that opens up an entire new ecosystem of software-based add-ons for future GM vehicles. 

Ford is technically behind some of its rivals in developing its architecture of the future. GM, for example, announced its Ultifi BEV architecture a year ago. And, of course, Tesla’s vehicle architecture was developed this way from its inception.

Being behind, though, has not slowed down the Dearborn automaker, which is No.2 in BEV sales behind Tesla, having put its Mustang Mach-E into driveways in 2021, and its Lightning EV truck and Transit EV on the road this year. And with the rollout and consumer acceptance of BEVs still an evolving process, getting the vehicles right in these early days is more important than being first to announce anything.

Ford plans to produce more than 2 million electric vehicles annually by 2026. And most companies expect BEVs to account for 50% of new-car sales by 2030, which is the target set by the Biden Administration.

Ford is going through a transformation of its business to the extent that it has roped off its continuing operations around internal-combustion-engine (ICE) mobility to keep it separate from its EV future. To that end, it has been going through staff reductions to beef up its software engineers and related staff to develop BEV, artificial intelligence (AI) systems and autonomous driving.

Getting The Right Engineers

Since Farley's comments last February about the company’s restructuring, Ford has cut 8,000 workers in its traditional gasoline-powered business and 2,000 salaried staff. Ford currently has 261 software engineer positions open per LinkedIn, but that is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the company’s recruiting efforts in Silicon Valley and top Universities.

Chairman Bill Ford says that the hiring process for software engineers for BEVS and AI is very different from what the company was used to for decades focused on ICE vehicles.

“When you hire a senior, high-profile software engineering leader, they come with long coat-tails,” says Ford. “Hire the right person and they might be able to bring 30 or more people along with them over a few months' time.”

That differs greatly from mechanical engineers from the ICE world, marketing or sales, he says. “Hire a senior ICE engineer or someone from one of the other business areas and they might bring along a couple of people they want from their previous travels, but the software world is very different.”

Farley has said to the dismay of the UAW that it will need about 40% fewer workers to build BEVs than it does for ICE vehicles.

Mobility Solutions Like Smartphones

Building vehicles that are more like smartphones is the future. To that end, Farley has made it a priority at Ford to bring these key emerging systems around this future in-house rather than rely on suppliers developing systems for Ford.

Software solutions have become an essential part of the automotive industry, especially as it relates to improving the performance level of the software.

And it’s not just engineering. Farley has said Ford is ready to invest in moving some of the mining of key precious metals – namely lithium and nickel – to North America rather than fall prey to unpredictable geo-political vagaries that can and do impact critical supply chains for BEV vehicles.

Software solutions have become an essential part of the automotive industry, and one of the main tasks of software engineers is to improve the performance level of the software itself. Many different types of software are used in automotive, and their main functions are to enhance the vehicle's safety and overall performance, making mobility more intuitive and improve the driving and ownership experience.

Assessing BEVs by consumers will be very focused on the driver/owner interface with the machine. Do all the systems and apps work the way they should? Are they intuitive to use? Automakers are envisioning a much expanded world of an app-driven mobility experience, as well as design of the interior and exterior of the vehicle as differentiators.

Price and range of the battery with a full-charge will not be a differentiator as those things will be price of entry for any automaker. The ownership experience will be driven by software performance.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.