Jim Vondale: Ford Safety Director to Advise on Future Strategy of Intelligent Vehicles
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- Who: Jim Vondale, director, Ford Automotive Safety Office
- Role: Vondale is responsible for planning, organizing and directing the performance of the company’s worldwide safety activities
- Did you know? Enjoys spending time with his family at their cottage at Higgins Lake, Mich., is a purveyor of fine wines and likes to travel outside of Michigan to places such as St. John, Virgin Islands
Jim Vondale knows that good communication is always a key to success, no matter who – or what – is talking.
Today, he is using effective communications to help accelerate the development of intelligent vehicles, or vehicles that in the not-so-distant future can talk to each other through the use of advanced Wi-Fi and other technologies.
Vondale, director of Ford Motor Company’s Automotive Safety Office, has responsibility for planning, organizing and directing the performance of the company’s worldwide safety activities. That’s a big responsibility, considering Ford has the most top U.S. safety ratings of any automaker ever.
“I’ve worked in vehicle safety-related positions at Ford for nearly 30 years,” he says. “Over that time period, I’ve touched nearly every kind of technology and policy issue related to vehicle safety.”
Today he’s facing perhaps one of his biggest opportunities yet. Vondale has been appointed to represent automakers on the Intelligent Transportation Systems Advisory Committee, which provides advice to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In that position, he’ll address key issues regarding the future of intelligent vehicles.
The benefits of this future technology are many, but so, too, are the complex issues surrounding intelligent vehicles. Vondale is helping shape the future of the technology while applying years of work in global safety forums to help standardize it across continents as much as possible.
“We at Ford believe intelligent vehicle technology has a great future to enhance safety, reduce traffic congestion and generally make driving more enjoyable,” Vondale says. “But the future depends on our ability to lay the groundwork now for an efficient, reliable and robust global deployment of these systems.”
He is no stranger to challenges. Vondale has been an integral voice at Ford regarding a range of emerging safety issues, including the ongoing debate over driver distraction. Vondale and Ford researchers used extensive company and external research to help guide the development of SYNC® – the Ford-exclusive in-car, voice-activated communication and entertainment system for mobile phones and digital music players. The research consistently showed clear advantages for drivers using SYNC’s voice-activated controls compared to using hand-held devices with their eyes off the road for extended times.
Vondale, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and his juris doctor from University of Detroit, joined Ford in 1981 as a product litigation attorney in its Office of General Counsel. Following that, he focused on a broad range of safety-related issues, including advanced restraint systems. His motivation for ever-evolving safety technologies has remained steady.
“Intelligent vehicles present some of the most challenging technical and safety policy issues as well as some of the greatest potential safety opportunities I have ever seen,” he says. “This mix of extreme challenges and far-reaching opportunities is what keeps me interested in safety and makes it exciting to work in this ever-changing industry.”
Personal Insights and Fun Facts
- When he’s not taking on safety challenges at work, Vondale enjoys spending time with his family at their cottage at Higgins Lake, Mich.
- Vondale enjoys travel; his favorite destination is St. John, Virgin Islands
- Vondale is a purveyor of fine wines
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 164,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com.
Jan. 27, 2011