|Ford has stated that its intent is to have a fully autonomous Society of Automotive Engineers level 4-capable vehicle in operation in 2021, revealing a range of initiatives in pursuit of its goal.|
The vehicle "is being specifically designed for commercial mobility services, such as ride-sharing and ride-hailing, and will be available in high volumes".
Ford will this year triple its autonomous vehicle test fleet, which will bring the number to about 30 self-driving Fusion Hybrid sedans, with plans to again triple it next year.
Ford has invested in Silicon Valley-based Velodyne, with the aim to quickly mass-produce a more affordable automotive LiDAR sensor, and has acquired Israel-based computer vision and machine learning company SAIPS, seeking to further strengthen its expertise in artificial intelligence and enhance computer vision.
Ford additionally has an exclusive licensing agreement with machine vision company Nirenberg Neuroscience, with it stating its partnership "will help bring human-like intelligence to the machine learning modules of its autonomous vehicle virtual driver system".
It has also invested in California-based Civil Maps "to further develop high-resolution 3D mapping capabilities".
Meanwhile, Ford is expanding its Silicon Valley operations, creating a dedicated campus in Palo Alto, with Ford to add two new buildings and 150,000 square feet of work and lab space adjacent to its current Research and Innovation Center, with the expanded campus to open in mid-2017.
"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, commented.
"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."