Ford is aiming to have fully autonomous vehicles available by 2021.
The American automaker has announced its intent to have a high-volume, fully autonomous SAE level-4 capable vehicle in commercial operation in 2021, as part of a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service. To help further development on self-driving cars, Ford is investing in or collaborating with four startups, will double its Silicon Valley team and more than double its Palo Alto campus.
The company expects that its first fully autonomous vehicle will not have a steering wheel or gas and brake pedals, and will be specifically designed for commercial mobility services rather than for public purchase. This year, Ford plans to triple its autonomous vehicle test fleet so that it has the largest fleet of any automaker, bringing the total number to about 30 self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrid sedans in California, Arizona and Michigan. It will triple it again to about 90 the next year.
Ford announced its investment into Velodyne and Civil Maps, its acquisition of SAIPS and an exclusive licensing agreement with Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC. Velodyne is a Silicon Valley-based leader in light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensors, while SAIPS is an Israel-based computer vision and machine learning company that focuses on artificial intelligence and computer vision. Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC is a machine vision company founded by neuroscientist Dr. Sheila Nirenberg, who cracked the neural code the eye uses to transmit visual information to the brain. Lastly, Civil Maps is a Berkeley, California-based company that has pioneered an innovative 3D mapping technique that is scalable and more efficient than existing processes.
“The next decade will be defined by automation of the automobile, and we see autonomous vehicles as having as significant an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did 100 years ago,” said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO. “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.”
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