Ford has opened its Israeli research centre in Tel Aviv.

The new centre will serve as a research hub augmenting global research and advanced engineering.

It will also support automotive and mobility businesses by identifying technologies and start-up companies in the fields of connectivity, sensors, automated-systems research, in-vehicle monitoring, and cyber security.

The centre, opened by chairman Bill Ford, will include a vehicle lab to support proof of concept efforts and AI work conducted by the SAIPS team.

Ford has been working with local companies and partners in Israel’s tech community for many years.

“We recognise the importance of being in one of the world’s leading innovation communities and ecosystems,” said Bill Ford.

“This new centre is not only an expansion of our existing research and innovation centres but provides an opportunity to join a growing innovation community in Israel.”

The Israel facility will operate closely with Ford subsidiary, SAIPS, headed by Udy Danino, founder and CEO, who has also been appointed as Israel technical director for the new centre. SAIPS is Israel’s leading computer vision and machine learning company, which Ford acquired three years ago.

“Expanding presence in Israel will allow us to engage with the best technology and leading companies a lot faster, and further support Ford’s goals of bringing together our vehicle and technology expertise to create new solutions to meet the mobility challenges of today and tomorrow,” said Danino. 

Ford has had a presence in Israel for nearly a decade working with local tech scouts to identify innovative emerging technologies. In 2015, It was among the first major automakers to host a developer challenge in Israel, returning last year to Tel Aviv with its fourth annual MakeItDriveable start-up event, which originated in Israel and spread to other tech hotspots like Berlin, Dublin and Paris over recent years.

The new centre joins a global network including Aachen, Germany, Nanjing, China and Dearborn, US.

Reuters noted that, with spiraling development costs for autonomous and connected cars in recent years, Ford and other carmakers have sought alliances and outside investors.

“No company can do it alone. No company should try and do it alone. We’re going to need partnerships,” Bill Ford told the news agency during his first visit to Israel.

“Partnerships with companies big, companies medium and especially start-ups. The ecosystem of start-ups that I’ve seen here is just incredible.”

“I’m going to be back very frequently because this really becomes the lifeblood of what Ford Motor will become in the future,” Ford said at the centre’s launch.

Reuters noted Renault and Nissan had opened a joint innovation lab in Tel Aviv earlier in the week, enabling their alliance to also collaborate with Israeli start-ups.

Intel, Continental, Samsung Electronics, Daimler and General Motors also bought start-ups or set up their own development centres in Israel, it added.

Ford earlier this week pushed back at suggestions it was falling behind peers on autonomous.

“I don’t agree,” Bill Ford told Reuters at an auto tech conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday when asked about losing market share.

“Our self-driving system, Argo, is incredibly competitive. On the technology side, we are right up there with the very best in terms of time of development but we want to take great care before we let people in these vehicles.”