Ford isn’t holding itself back in the development of automated vehicles. In fact, they announced their intention to develop a fully autonomous vehicle for ridesharing service by 2021.
Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO said that the company’s first autonomous vehicle would meet the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Level 4 autonomy. SAE levels are the international standard of the said organization to measure the degree of automation in autonomous cars.
The target Level 4 of Ford means “High Automation,” which will include full computer control of steering, acceleration/deceleration, monitoring of road status, and fallback performance of dynamic driving tasks.
Since its SAE level 4, Ford plans to build a fully autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel as well as gas and brake pedals.
In order to fulfill this task, Ford is investing in four startup companies that will concentrate in developing autonomous cars. Of note, these are all part of Ford Smart Mobility – a plan in which they intend to lead in autonomous cars, connectivity, data and analytics, mobility, and customer experience.
The four startup companies that Ford is investing in is Velodyne, a Silicon Valley-based leader in light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensors; SAIPS, an Israel-based company that specializes in artificial intelligence and computer vision; an exclusive licensing agreement with Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC, a machine vision company that cracked the neural code that the eyes use to transmit information to the brain; and Civil Maps, a pioneer in high-resolution 3D mapping capabilities.
Fields believes that the next decade will be defined by vehicle automation, in which autonomous vehicles will be playing a significant role. He even compared it to Ford’s moving assembly line that happened 100 years ago.
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,” Fields added.
With this, Ford is looking to triple their test fleet, bringing it up to 30 self-driving Fusion Hybrid sedans on the roads in California, Arizona, and Michigan. They also intend to triple it again next year. Moreover, Ford is also the first automaker to test at Mcity, University of Michigan’s simulated urban environment which includes public demonstration in the snow and at night (complete darkness), as part of their LiDAR sensor development.
Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, Global Product Development, and chief technical officer, advised that they have been developing and testing autonomous vehicles for more than 10 years. He also believes that they have an advantage since they are capable of combining software and sensing technology with sophisticated engineering to manufacture high-quality vehicles. For him, these will make autonomous cars a reality for millions of people globally.
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