Led by: Dirk Rossberg, head of group technology offices
About the facility: The office focuses on human-machine interface, mechatronics (integration of sensor technology, actuator technology and electronics), infotainment, driver assistance and advanced materials. It worked a decade ago to integrate iPod and iPhone adapters into BMW vehicles and more recently to integrate the Pandora app into BMW's ConnectedDrive infotainment system.
Bosch Research and Technology Center North America
Opened: 1999 Employees: 95 (includes satellite offices in Pittsburgh and Cambridge, Mass.)
Led by: Jiri Marek, senior vice president for corporate research
About the facility: Bosch, a major supplier of technology for advanced safety features, says its laboratory focuses on application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) design, energy storage technology, wireless technologies and algorithms for autonomous driving. The company has worked with the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory's autonomous driving team since 2007, and journalists in Silicon Valley have occasionally spotted BMW 325d test cars with Bosch decals and a roof-mounted sensor resembling the one that Google uses on its own autonomous cars.
Continental Silicon Valley
Opened: November 2013 Employees: 20
Led by: Alexander Klotz, head of interior electronics solutions
About the facility: Continental uses its Silicon Valley office to take the pulse of the consumer electronics industry and cooperate with Bay Area partners such as Cisco, with which it's working on cars that use Internet connectivity for safety features, autonomous driving and emergency services. The two companies have shown a proof-of-concept car that can switch between 3G, 4G and other wireless technologies while putting up stiffer defenses against cyberattacks.
Delphi Labs @ Silicon Valley
Opened: September 2012; moved to dedicated office in July 2013 Employees: 15
Led by: John Absmeier, director
About the facility: Delphi's laboratory mainly works on infotainment systems and crash-avoidance technology, both of which have rapidly grown in recent years. Last year, the company showed a prototype of a customizable digital instrument cluster that car owners can configure using an app on a PC, tablet or smartphone. Delphi has also set aside a $100 million venture fund to invest in connected-car startups.
Denso International America Silicon Valley Office
Opened: April 2011 Employees: 6
Led by: Roger Berg, senior vice president of r&d
About the facility: Denso's office, billed as a think tank, focuses on cybersecurity, big data and autonomous driving. The company announced in May that it intends to triple the office's staff through 2017 to invest in startup companies and bolster the company's r&d operations outside Japan.
Ford Silicon Valley Lab
Opened: January 2012 Employees: 8
Led by: Chuck Nagi, laboratory manager
About the facility: Ford opened its Silicon Valley office to position itself as a technology company and attract talented engineers and app developers who might otherwise overlook the auto industry. The lab focuses on big data and open-source programming projects such as Ford's OpenXC platform, which makes it easier for coders to build customized applications and modules using data from inside a car.
General Motors Advanced Technology Silicon Valley Office
Opened: 2007 Employees: 7
Led by: Frankie James, managing director
About the facility: GM opened its office to have "eyes and ears on the ground" in Silicon Valley, scouting for technology and trends that could help the company. Four employees take charge of those responsibilities, while another employee is an investment manager from GM Ventures, a capital division that invests in startup companies.
Honda Silicon Valley Lab
Opened: May 2011
Led by: Naoki (Nick) Sugimoto, senior program director
About the facility: Honda's technology office focuses on connected vehicles, the human-machine interface, big data and cybersecurity. It is home to a team that looks into strategic alliances with Bay Area companies and a prototype development team that builds concepts for next-generation information technology.
Opened: January 2012 Employees: 5
Led by: John Suh, director
About the facility: Hyundai's 2-year-old Silicon Valley office is fashioned as a venture capital arm, tasked with investing in early-stage companies and striking partnerships with bigger technology players. It focuses on the convergence of cars with mobile devices, digital media and wireless communications, clean-energy technology and new business models for personal mobility.
Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America Inc.
Opened: 1995 in Palo Alto; moved to Sunnyvale in November 2013 Employees: About 300
Led by: Johann Jungwirth, president and CEO
About the facility: Mercedes claims to have been the first automaker to establish an r&d office in Silicon Valley, and its lab -- focused on advanced engineering, electric drive technology and user experience design -- remains one of the largest auto industry offices in the area. The group moved to a glamorous new Sunnyvale office in fall 2013 with a rotating three-pointed star out front.
Nissan Research Center - Silicon Valley
Opened: 2011 in Mountain View; moved to Sunnyvale in February 2013 Employees: 20
Led by: Maarten Sierhuis, director
About the facility: Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has set a goal of having an autonomous vehicle ready for the market by 2020, and the company's Silicon Valley office is a big part of the strategy. Beyond self-driving cars, the r&d operation works on connected vehicles that can tap into infrastructure and the Internet, as well as the human-machine interface for all of these new approaches.
Opened: October 2010 Employees: About 3,000
Led by: Greg Reichow, vice president of production
About the facility: Tesla bought its lone assembly plant in 2010 from Toyota after the company stopped production at the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) factory, which previously had been jointly run with GM. Tesla is using about half of the plant's 5.5 million square feet to produce the Model S sedan. The company runs the plant as a vertically integrated operation, using it to build components such as battery packs, which are assembled under tight security on the top floor.
Opened: August 2009
Led by: CEO Elon Musk
About the facility: Tesla has surpassed Toyota as the largest auto industry employer in California. The headquarters office houses top management, engineering and sales. It also has a low-volume manufacturing operation that builds powertrains for automakers such as Mercedes-Benz. The facility's 350,000 square feet are rented from Stanford University, with the lease due to expire in January 2020.
Toyota InfoTechnology Center USA Inc.
Opened: April 2001 Employees: 40
Led by: Hironori (Harry) Miyakoshi, executive vice president
About the facility: Toyota's research lab works primarily on computing projects involving smartphones, big data, personalization, computer vision, networking and the integration of cars into a "smart" electric grid. Its researchers published more than 10 technical papers in 2013, mostly on the rollout of Dedicated Short Range Communications, or DSRC -- an Internet-like network that U.S. auto safety regulators are planning to mandate in new cars within a few years. Other topics: conveying safety messages to drivers at the right time by considering vehicle dynamics; charging electric cars at optimal times based on overall demand on the grid.
Volkswagen Group Electronics Research Lab
Opened: 1998 in Sunnyvale; moved to Palo Alto in 2002 and to Belmont in 2011 Employees: 140
Led by: Ewald Goessmann, executive director
About the facility: Volkswagen's largest research facility outside Germany, the Belmont lab is home to engineers, social scientists and product designers. Past projects included integrating Google Earth maps into Audi's navigation system and a "picture navigation" feature that lets people navigate to a destination by pulling a GPS location tag from a photo. The office is also the development hub for Volkswagen Group's new modular infotainment toolkit, which VW says has cut the development cycle from six years to two by allowing the company to drop in a new graphics card rather than re-engineering the whole system.