Ford and ADT team up to prevent theft from vehicles

Automaker Ford and ADT, a company that provides home and business security and alarm monitoring services, have launched a joint venture called Canopy that aims to address vulnerabilities in current vehicle security offerings.

Canopy will initially offer an aftermarket accessory that can be mounted onto a vehicle to monitor its surroundings and alert drivers of issues like theft or vandalism.

While built-in vehicle alarm systems help deter some thefts, they’re by no means foolproof. In 2020, the FBI estimated that $7.4 billion was lost to motor vehicle theft, which includes both the theft of vehicles themselves and their contents. Canopy’s product, which has been operating in pilots over the past 10 months with trucking companies in the U.S. and cargo vans in the U.K., aims to combine Ford’s vehicle camera systems expertise with ADT’s monitoring service to help commercial and retail customers avoid vehicle theft.

Canopy is ADT’s first foray into automotive security, and is a product of FordX, the automaker’s new venture incubator that collaborates with other companies to quickly build, acquire and pilot new transportation technologies. In 2018, FordX worked on Jelly, a dockless e-scooter sharing company, which was the basis for Ford’s acquisition of Spin. Canopy appears to be the next step in Ford’s strategy to expand its portfolio of scalable mobility solutions outside of its traditional business lines.

Canopy’s self-sticking accessory works with any vehicle make or model and is expected to be sold online and at various brick-and-mortar stores by early 2023. It relies on a stack of sensors, including camera, radar and acoustic sensors, to collect data about the vehicle’s surroundings. An operating system independent from the car’s own then processes the data, and shares back to cloud servers via LTE or Wi-Fi. Any possible thefts will be reported to the vehicle owner via a mobile app or to one of ADT’s 5,000 monitoring agents, according to Leah Page, VP of mobile security and strategic projects at ADT.

“When you think about the element ADT brings to the product, it’s really about helping to bring in AI solutions,” Page told TechCrunch. “So that’s knowing the difference between a bird going by and somebody breaching the cargo bed of your truck to steal something. Once that event happens it does come into ADT and then our monitoring agents know how to react. That can be anything from just alerting the owner or an emergency contact all the way through to alerting the police, depending on the situation.”

Down the line, Canopy intends to release another monitoring system that integrates into any car’s hardware and relies on that vehicle’s cameras and sensors to perform the same safety features. Ford will be Canopy’s first integration, but the aim is to make all of Canopy’s tech available to any automaker.

“In order to make this offer really meaningful to customers, we had to do it in a way that was multi-make and would enable us to address the security concerns for the vehicles that are already out on the road today,” Christian Moran, director of FordX and interim CEO of Canopy, told TechCrunch. “We’re looking at one solution that can run across a myriad of trucks and vans, which are our target vehicles to start in.”

Canopy initially set out with a focus on commercial customers, thinking of both large fleets carrying priceless cargo and small business owners who have thousands of dollars worth of tools and equipment in the beds of their trucks and are often the victims of theft. That’s still going to be the first target for rollout beginning early next year. Throughout the pilots, however, use cases for the average consumer started to come up, as well.

“We got tremendous feedback from people who put bikes or kayaks in the back of their truck or van while going out on the trail, and those items are very expensive so they want them to be protected,” said Moran. “In addition, although this was not one of our original features, we heard from a number of pilot participants that one of their favorite features was actually livestreaming around their vehicle when it was dark out at night. So imagine walking into a dark, empty parking lot and you can use the app to see around your vehicle.”

Over the course of the pilots, Canopy ended up turning over evidence to vehicle owners of two different theft attempts, said Moran, adding that customers could use Canopy’s footage to work with police and insurance companies.

Together, Ford and ADT have invested a total of $105 million in the joint venture, with Ford chipping in $63 million and ADT $42 million. The money will be used to hire across the product, engineering and go-to-market teams in the U.K. and the U.S., as well as setting up the supply chain and logistics for the aftermarket product so it can scale over the next few years.