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Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Ken Washington, who was recently named Ford's Chief Technical Officer, was in San Francisco last week, along with newly named CEO Jim Hackett, as part of a "City of Tomorrow" event that explored how autonomous vehicles and other transportation changes will reshape urban life.

I caught up with him to talk about the role of software, how autonomy will change car design and his view on tech giants Apple and Google. Here are a few highlights:

  • The biggest influence will be how the cars are bought, sold and used: "You would design those vehicles differently depending on what business model (is being used). We're working through that business model question right now."
  • Ford isn't closed to working with Apple and Google, but it is still treading carefully. "We are not ceding our future to anyone but at the same time we are being very strategic about who we partner with," Washington said. (Former CEO Mark Fields had warned carmakers risk the same fate as phone manufacturers in the smartphone era — seeing control and profits shift to software makers.)
  • The biggest misconceptions about autonomous capabilities is that it's only about software. "People are imagining that the act of doing software for autonomy is all you need to do and then you can just bolt it to the car," he said.
  • "I don't think it's possible to describe what an autonomous vehicle is going to look like," Washington said.

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Go deeper

The Biden protection plan

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The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.

Bush labels Clyburn the “savior” for Democrats

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Former President George W. Bush credited Rep. James Clyburn with being the "savior" of the Democratic Party, telling the South Carolinian at Wednesday's inauguration his endorsement allowed Joe Biden to win the party's presidential nomination.

Why it matters: The nation's last two-term Republican president also said Clyburn's nod allowed for the transfer of power, because he felt only Biden had the ability to unseat President Trump.

GOP research firm aims to hobble Biden nominees

Alejandro Mayorkas. Photo: Joshua Roberts/AFP via Getty Images

The Republican-aligned opposition research group America Rising is doing all it can to prevent President Biden from seating his top Cabinet picks.

Why it matters: After former President Trump inhibited the transition, Biden is hoping the Republican minority in Congress will cooperate with getting his team in place. Biden hadn't even been sworn in when America Rising began blasting opposition research to reporters targeting Janet Yellen and Alejandro Mayorkas.