Google meets Detroit: Former Ford CEO Alan Mulally joins Google’s board

As Google’s (s goog) connected car and driverless vehicle ambitions increase, it needed to find a car guy to advise it on the rather arcane and insular ways of the automotive industry. Well, Google got its gearhead.
Former Ford Motor Company(s f) CEO and President Alan Mulally has joined Google board of directors and will serve on Google’s audit committee, Google revealed in its blog today. Google didn’t say specifically that Mulally would advise the company on automotive matters, but you have to figure that Mulally’s eight years at the helm of one the world’s most storied automakers — one which he managed to save from bankruptcy — has got to have something to do with the decision.
As I’ve pointed out before, Silicon Valley and Detroit have very different views about how and how fast the automotive industry needs to innovate. Mulally could help Google make sense of the automakers and maybe even help prevent some of the inevitable clashes as Google gets up in their business.
Google has long been developing autonomous driving technologies and is even rumored to be designing its own driverless cars. In addition, Google’s core services like Maps and Search will soon make it into the vehicle as part of its new Android Automotive program.
Mulally oversaw the launch of Ford’s own connected infotainment platform, Sync AppLink, which is surprisingly similar to Android Automotive as both rely on the smartphone for mobile data connectivity and to run the actual connected car apps. Under Mulally’s watch, Ford also began pursuing driverless car technologies, though its approach has been a bit different from Google’s. Instead of focusing solely on vehicles that use sensors to see for themselves, Ford has put a high premium on networked cars that can communicate their intentions to one another.
Before joining Ford, Mulally was EVP at Boeing(s ba) where he headed up its commercial aircraft division, which might be handy knowledge for Google as well, given its various balloon, drone and satellite projects. And before retiring early from Ford last month, Mulally was rumored to be one of the external candidates to replace Steve Ballmer as CEO of Microsoft(s msft).