Can a Silicon Valley executive change the automotive industry?

Laura Merling, VP of the autonomous vehicle solutions at Ford Smart Mobility, has a plan to make the self-driving car a commercial success. With her experience in “connected devices and machine learning to bring self-driving cars to market.” Merling is developing a strategy to expand Ford’s offerings and position it for the future.  The company has made it clear that their new venture will not stray them away from their core business plan. Merling’s responsibilities  “will be to lead the commercialization of autonomous vehicles.”

Ford plans to produce self-driving cars for commercial ride-sharing by the year 2021. In a recent statement to the press, Ford provided more information about their plans, stating that “Ford is focused on developing a fully autonomous vehicle, or Level 4, a classification by the Society of Automotive Engineers that means the car can handle all aspects of driving in some conditions or driving modes. For example, the cars may only operate under certain environmental conditions or a specific area within a city. It would be one step short of the highest rating, Level 5, when a car can handle all driving tasks in all road and environmental conditions normally controlled by a human.”

This is not Merling first time leading a project for Ford (although this time she is working ‘directly’ for the company). In 1989, she worked as a tech analyst with TechTeam Global and helped launch the company’s first online configurator for the F-Series trucks.

-Ray Hayes

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