Ford made automotive history this year announcing the F-150 Lightning, a fully-electric version of America’s best-selling vehicle for 30 years running. While vehicle electrification disrupts the automotive industry, Ford works to redefine relationships with the road through some seriously thorough user research and innovative thinking.
Curious to learn how design and innovation help the company stay ahead of transformative trends, we brought Sandy Fershee, lab director at D-Ford Detroit, on to season six of The Design Better Podcast. In this episode, Sandy talks about her role at D-Ford, which drives progress and innovation throughout the whole company through empathy, creativity, and human centered-design.
Sandy also talks about the challenges of doing large scale research and development. Vehicles have a quite long product life cycle, she explains, so conversations must happen years before a customer can purchase or lease one. While the company can’t pursue, say, 100 ideas for the future, they can move forward with 10 that make sense and execute those ideas well, creating something meaningful and impactful.
“Making decisions about which ideas to pursue is an art and science in and of itself,” she says.
Sandy also discusses how D-Ford approaches design at the intersection of hardware and software. For example, Ford has a large commercial business, providing trucks to construction teams. In designing those vehicles, Ford considers how to help those businesses thrive, which includes preventing break-ins and protecting workers’ expensive tools. Rather than physically fortify vehicles, the R&D team can explore sensors and other anti-theft technology.
“We’re looking at creating a solution set that’s more digitally connected and essentially smarter,” she says.