Volvo has decided to join the ranks of automakers with offices in Silicon Valley.
The Swedish car company is in the process of opening a research center in Mountain View, Calif., Lex Kerssemakers, CEO of Volvo’s U.S. division, said. The company is hiring about 70 engineers for the office, he said.
“We’re moving in as we speak,” he said.
Volvo, which is owned by Chinese automaker Geely but operates largely independently, has had an office in Camarillo, Calif., for about 30 years that focused on car design, Kerssemakers said. Within the past three to four years, engineers based in that office also started to work on car infotainment systems, he said. Those engineers frequently have been traveling to the Bay Area to collaborate with tech firms here.
Among those was Apple. Volvo engineers worked closely with the iPhone maker to integrate CarPlay into a new infotainment system in its XC90 sport utility vehicle, Kerssemakers said. That experience, plus a recently announced joint venture agreement with Uber to develop self-driving cars, convinced Volvo to set up shop in the Bay Area.
The new office “is literally based on the success we’ve had in the last two or three years working together with companies here in the Bay Area,” he said.
Engineers in the new center will focus on electric car technology, infotainment systems and autonomous vehicle research, he said.
Volvo is the latest car company to open a research center in Silicon Valley. General Motors, Volkswagen, BMW and others have operated in the area for years. Ford was a latecomer when it opened up a small office in 2012, but it later grew that presence to more than 100 people.
A large and growing proportion of a car’s value is tied up in the software that underlies its various systems, said Brian Brennan, a senior vice president of Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a trade organization for the area. Meanwhile, autonomous vehicles are considered to be the cars of the future, and Silicon Valley is a hot spot for both the software industry and autonomous vehicle research, he said.