Ford seems set to show off some cool stuff at the CES show in Vegas this week. Drones controlled from your car’s touchscreen! Data-driven multimodal transport! Cool, how does it come up with all this stuff? About that: Ford would like to buy some tech companies, please. And it’s brilliant!

So we’ve got this video of a drone ostensibly being run from an F-150’s infotainment screen. It’s a “a rapidly deployable surveying system for use by the United Nations in emergency zones; future applications could include agriculture, forestry, construction, bridge inspection and other work,” according to the press release.

At least, it will be. Or could be. If or when somebody wins the “Developer Challenge” to create a rapidly deployable surveying system for use by the United Nations in emergency zones; future applications could include agriculture, forestry, construction, bridge inspection and other work.

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Ford, like your grandma with “12:00” still blinking on her VHS player, can’t be bothered to set this up themselves so the company’s offering $100,000 up to anybody who can figure it out for them.

For its next trick the company will invoke the rest of the tech buzzwords you’ve been hearing about; “connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics” in particular.

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Yes, those are things that are new and cool and Ford would love to know more about them so if you have some tips please send in your idea so the company can buy it off you.

Specifically we’re talking about Techstars Mobility; a challenge set out to anyone who can demonstrate a working idea that runs with the themes of “the consumer experience, “information technology and data analytics,” “multimodal trip integration,” and/or “flexible ownership and user experience” as related to cars.

Ford has joined a consortium of other megalithic corporations to crowdsource innovation by sponsor startup companies to the tune of “$120,000 in funding and three months of mentoring and training” for up to 12 companies as outlined in a press release.

I’m being a bit cynical, but it’s just as easy to see this as a pretty awesome move by the automotive giant (turned “mobility company.”) Could Ford create their own drone controller and data-based user experiences? For sure.

But today’s economy is one of tiny businesses with big ideas blowing up. These “design contests” Ford is throwing down are a great way for the company to get a fresh injection of ideas and perspective from a massive pool for short money. And at the same time, they get the chance to play Cool Uncle to some startups with potential.

Everybody wins! Especially Ford, which will shortly have inboxes overflowing with new things to try long before they have to start paying out for prizes.

Tread carefully, entrepreneurial nerds. Don’t sell a million dollar idea for $100,000.

Images/video via Ford


Contact the author at andrew@jalopnik.com.