DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. Chief Technology Officer Ken Washington, who developed the automaker’s next-generation electrical architecture and other advanced technologies, is leaving for a job with tech giant Amazon.
Washington, who has three nuclear engineering degrees and joined Ford in 2014 from the Lockheed Martin space program, will step down July 16 to become Amazon’s vice president of software engineering in Sunnyvale, Calif., Ford said in a memo to employees this week.
Jim Buczkowski, Ford’s director of electrical and electronics systems research and innovation, will oversee the automaker’s research and advanced engineering team until a replacement is named.
Washington, 60, was responsible for Ford’s next-generation vehicle electrical architectures; sensing and computing stacks; energy, propulsion and sustainability; advanced materials and manufacturing; and controls and automated systems, according to a company biography.
He and his team developed more advanced tech stacks for fully networked vehicles, including the latest version introduced in the Mustang Mach-E and the 2021 F-150 and its forthcoming successor, Ford said in the memo.
“An important part of Ford+ is willingness and effectiveness in partnering with others for expertise, and Ken’s been on the leading edge of that within the company,” Hau Thai-Tang, chief product platform and operations officer, said in the memo. “He’s had a tremendous influence in building out our capabilities and learning from others in ways that are making Ford a leader in connected vehicles.”
Washington, who was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 2020, also led Ford’s STEM and university research programs. He was vice president of research and advanced engineering before being named chief technology officer in 2017. The Detroit Free Press reported Washington’s planned departure Thursday morning.
Ford began ramping up its data strategy with artificial intelligence and other technology several years ago, Washington told Automotive News last year. At the time, Washington said his long-term plans at Ford included a stronger focus on the power of computing and the importance of digital networks.
He had been working toward harnessing data from Ford’s connected vehicles for future vehicle development.
“I’ve always loved cars,” Washington, whose first car was a Mustang, said in a 2015 interview. “I’m a pretty typical geek. I’m not your typical ‘car guy,’ so I’m not like a gearhead, but I always loved cars. I always thought they were great emotive things.”