Ford plans to mass-produce a fully autonomous vehicle ready for commercial operation by 2021.
The manufacturer’s first fully autonomous vehicle will be a Society of Automotive Engineers-rated level 4-capable vehicle without a steering wheel or gas and brake pedals. It is being designed for commercial services, such as ride sharing and taxi services.
Mark Fields, Ford president and chief executive, said: “We’re dedicated to putting on the road an autonomous vehicle that can improve safety and solve social and environmental challenges for millions of people – not just those who can afford luxury vehicles.”
To meet it 2021 deadline, Ford has announced four key investments and collaborations that are expanding its research in advanced algorithms, 3D mapping, LiDAR, and radar and camera sensors:
• Velodyne: Ford has invested in Velodyne, the Silicon Valley-based leader in light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensors. The aim is to quickly mass-produce a more affordable automotive LiDAR sensor.
• SAIPS: Ford has acquired the Israel-based computer vision and machine learning company to further strengthen its expertise in artificial intelligence and enhance computer vision. Its expertise will help Ford autonomous vehicles learn and adapt to the surroundings of their environment.
• Nirenberg Neuroscience: Ford has an exclusive licensing agreement with Nirenberg Neuroscience, a machine vision company. The partnership will help bring humanlike intelligence to the learning modules of its autonomous vehicle virtual driver system.
• Civil Maps: Ford has invested in California-based Civil Maps to further develop high-resolution 3D mapping capabilities.
Ken Washington, Ford vice-president, research and advanced Engineering, added: “We are actively working with more than 40 startups, and have developed a strong collaboration with many incubators, allowing us to accelerate development of technologies and services.”
Ford will also triple its autonomous vehicle test fleet this year making it the largest any car manufacturer – bringing the number to about 30 self-driving Fusion Hybrid sedans on the roads in California, Arizona and Michigan, with plans to triple it again next year.