World BI Interviews

Q1. To get the things started, tell us something about you?

Hi, I’m Peter Geffers from Ford of Germany, responsible for Over-The-Air software updates, EU Data Privacy implementation, Access to Vehicle Data and Data Analytics. This seems to be a wide are of topics, but looking at it in more detail, you’ll find out that bundling these topics in one management area makes quite a lot of sense. As an engineer, I’m passionate for data, regardless of if it’s for quality analytics, feature usage or the vehicle integration into the IOT.

Q2. Your role involves a diverse range of responsibilities, from Multi-Module Over-The-Air (MMOTA) software updates to working on ePrivacy & GDPR. What role do these elements play in shaping the future of automotive technology?

Connectivity is a key enabler for our digital future and vehicles are an essential part of this digital eco system. Vehicles in isolation won’t be sustainable to drive intermodal mobility to the next level. Electric vehicles and even more autonomous driving need connectivity for sustainable and safe operation. Sharing data has become subject to regulations to provide a framework for both, customers and companies. The Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was the 1st major regulation, effective April 2018, that defined basic rules of data usage and data handling. This was followed by the ePrivacy Directives applicability to connected vehicles, providing customers the choice to determine which data can be used for what purpose. The Data Act is now adding further choice for our customers to determine which data shall be shared with whom.

The evolution of regulations outlined above requires a vehicle to be kept compliant with the latest regulations and to be capable of adjusting to upcoming regulation. Over -The-Air software updates are the key enable to achieve this.

Q3. You've represented Ford on various working groups, including 'Access-to-Vehicle Data'. How do these collaborative efforts with governments and associations contribute to Ford's approach to innovation, and what challenges do you foresee in harmonizing automotive technology standards on a global scale?

Representing Ford in various working groups started many years ago. My role is of technical nature to assess the proposed regulations and requirements for technical feasibility and plausibility. Participating in these working groups provides benefits for everybody. The dialogue with the government helps to ensure that a law proposal considers the interests of all parties involved, governments, customers, OEMs and suppliers. This helps us as an OEM to have laws that can be implemented efficiently while maintaining our intellectual property, where needed. Harmonization of non-differentiating elements in laws helps everyone involved to keep the costs down and decrease time to market. Beyond that there’s the opportunity to deliver an exceptional customer experience and brand image.

Challenges are that different market participant have different views on the technical feasibility of requirements and that sometimes these market participants do not understand the complexity of vehicle networks, distributed features and software integration, which is then interpreted as OEMs trying to block law content to protect their business. Governments are then challenged to take an educated decision, based on different assessments from different market participants.

Q4. Your commitment to achieving goals and targets is evident in your project focus on increasing customer satisfaction and company value. Can you share a specific project or initiative that showcases the successful implementation of new vehicle customer services?

As part of my responsibilities we’re delivering Software Over-The-Air updates to our European customers to a whole variety of different vehicle architectures, ranging from single ECU firmware updates to Multi-Module updates on e.g. the Ford mustang Mach-e. On Mustang Mach-e we’ve been delivering more than 600k OTAs to our customers that contained next to some quality fixes feature upgrades for all vehicles produced since the introduction end of 2020. The delivery of Alexa voice assistant, connected map updates are just 2 examples where customers benefit from having a connected car. We’ve announced end of last year that we received the homologation approval of level 2+ autonomous driving. We’re in the process of delivering that important feature upgrade to our customers in the near future -stay tuned.

Q5. Your leadership style is described as result-oriented, trustful, and empowering. How do you foster a culture of mutual respect and empowerment within your teams, especially in the context of implementing new products and services?

I’m proud to work in a very diverse team with colleagues from all over the globe. For me it’s very important to build a close relationship with my team members. This includes to exchange our ‘stories of life’ in a trustful manner. I can give you one example. A team member shared is history about coming from Pakistan to Germany, learning German, getting his diploma, and starting a career in the automotive industry. It’s rewarding and exciting to get to know the people and to build up these relationships. The team members also know my ‘story of life’, I’m not a stranger to them who takes decisions in isolation. This creates an atmosphere of trust. Opinions can be share openly – both ways. Nobody is afraid to tell me if I’m wrong. This helps to in the context of developing new products or services. There are no ‘stupid’ ideas and nobody risks to be judged on a proposal. An initially odd idea might become a game changer if we discuss this proposal in more detail. When taking a decision for a new product or service, we win as team and we lose as a team. My role as a leader is to enable the team members to focus on excellence and delivery by keeping away everything from them that distracts them.