Ford has announced its intent to have a fully autonomous vehicle in commercial operation in 2021 in a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service. To get there, the company is investing in or collaborating with four startups to enhance its autonomous vehicle development, doubling its Silicon Valley team and more than doubling its Palo Alto campus.
Ford has announced its intent to have a high-volume, fully autonomous SAE level 4-capable vehicle in commercial operation in 2021 in a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service. To get there, the company is investing in or collaborating with four startups to enhance its autonomous vehicle development, doubling its Silicon Valley team and more than doubling its Palo Alto campus.
Plans are to design it to operate without a steering wheel, gas or brake pedal, for use in commercial mobility services such as ride sharing and ride hailing within geo-fenced areas and be available in high volumes.
This year, Ford will triple its autonomous vehicle test fleet to be the largest test fleet of any automaker – 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.
To deliver an autonomous vehicle in 2021, Ford is announcing four key investments and collaborations that are expanding its strong 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. Their aim is to quickly mass-produce a more affordable automotive LiDAR sensor. Ford has a longstanding relationship with Velodyne, and was among the first to use LiDAR for both high-resolution mapping and autonomous driving beginning more than 10 years ago.
- 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. SAIPS has developed algorithmic solutions in image and video processing, deep learning, signal processing and classification. This expertise will help Ford autonomous vehicles learn and adapt to the surroundings of their environment
- Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC: Ford has an exclusive licensing agreement with Nirenberg Neuroscience, 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. This has led to a powerful machine vision platform for performing navigation, object recognition, facial recognition and other functions, with many potential applications.
- Civil Maps: Ford has invested in Berkeley, California-based Civil Maps to further develop high-resolution 3D mapping capabilities. Civil Maps has pioneered an innovative 3D mapping technique. This provides Ford another way to develop high-resolution 3D maps of autonomous vehicle environments.
Ford also is expanding its Silicon Valley operations, creating a dedicated campus in Palo Alto. Adding two new buildings and 150,000 square feet of work and lab space adjacent to the current Research and Innovation Center, the expanded campus grows the company’s local footprint and supports plans to double the size of the Palo Alto team by the end of 2017. Ford Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto is home to more than 130 researchers, engineers and scientists. Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto’s multi-disciplinary research and innovation facility is the newest of nearly a dozen of Ford’s global research, innovation, IT and engineering centers. The expanded Palo Alto campus opens in mid-2017.