Ford looks to deliver fleet of autonomous vehicles by 2021
Autonomous vehicles are poised to ultimately disrupt the automotive and transportation industries with many watchers speculating that car ownership will be eventually give way to widespread ride sharing. Signaling efforts to embrace this coming shift, Ford on Tuesday announced “its intent to have a high-volume, fully autonomous…vehicle in commercial operation in 2021 in a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service,” according to company representatives.
“Ford has been developing and testing autonomous vehicles for more than 10 years,” Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, Global Product Development, and chief technical officer, said in a statement. “We have a strategic advantage because of our ability to combine the software and sensing technology with the sophisticated engineering necessary to manufacture high-quality vehicles. That is what it takes to make autonomous vehicles a reality for millions of people around the world.”
In addition to expanding its presence in Silicon Valley, Ford has made a number of investments in autonomous vehicle technology. For instance, Ford invested in LiDAR firm Velodyne with the goal of mass producing LiDAR sensors, which essentially help an autonomous vehicle see.
Further, Ford acquired SAIPS, an Israel-based artificial intelligence outfit focused on computer vision and machine learning. A licensing deal with Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC, another machine vision company. The automaker also has a stake in Civil Maps, which produces high-res 3D mapping tech.
The specifically articulated goal is for Ford to commercialize an autonomous vehicle hat meets the Society of Automotive Engineers’ level-4 capable vehicle. That means the vehicle wouldn’t have a steering wheel or gas and brake pedals. “It is being specifically designed for commercial mobility services, such as a ride sharing and ride hailing, and will be available in high volumes,” the company said.
Road tests will begin this year in California, Arizona and Michigan using some 30 autonomous Fusion Hybrid vehicles.
“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,” Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO, 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.”