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Looking Further

Ford will have a fully autonomous vehicle in operation by 2021

No driver required. Thanks to Ford, that statement will be possible in 2021, the year that we will have a fully autonomous vehicle in commercial operation. To make this possible, we have partnered or invested with four different technology companies, along with doubling our Silicon Valley presence.

The effort to build fully autonomous vehicles by 2021 is a main pillar of Ford Smart Mobility: our plan to be a leader in autonomy, connectivity, mobility, customer experience and analytics. The vehicle will operate without a steering wheel, gas pedal or brake pedal within geo-fenced areas as part of a ride sharing or ride hailing experience. By doing this, the vehicle will be classified as a SAE Level 4 capable-vehicle, or one of High Automation that can complete all aspects of driving without a human driver to intervene.

The SAE International six levels of automation rating system is used by the U.S. Department of Transportation to classify a vehicle’s automation capabilities. The system starts at Level 0 — No Automation – which is defined as a vehicle that requires a human driver for all aspects of the driving task, and goes up to Level 5 –Full Automation – in which a vehicle can perform all driving tasks, no matter the environmental or roadway conditions. By mass producing a Level 4 capable vehicle, Ford will have achieved the highest level of automation by any automotive maker to date.

In order to reach this ambitious goal, Ford has committed to expanding its research in advanced algorithms, 3-D mapping, radar technology and camera sensors. To help accelerate the development of these new technologies, we have announced four key investments and collaborations with Velodyne, SAIPS, Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC and Civil Maps. These companies bring their own unique skill sets and experiences to the table, and have proven to be dedicated to making the world a better place through their technological endeavors.

Since becoming the first automaker to begin testing fully autonomous vehicles inside Mcity, the University of Michigan’s simulate urban environment, Ford has made enormous strides in researching how these vehicles operate in hazardous conditions, such as snow and complete darkness. Over the next two years, we will have tripled our autonomous vehicle test fleet to 30 Fusion Hybrid sedans in 2017 and will have 90 by 2018. These sedans will be taking the roads in California, Arizona, and Michigan for extensive development and testing.

In addition to the extensive testing of these vehicles and intensive collaboration with outside partners, Ford is focusing on expanding its Silicon Valley presence by creating a dedicated campus in Palo Alto to ensure that these innovations will be made. The Ford Research and Innovation Center that was initially created in 2015 will have two new buildings and 150,000 square feet of work and lab space added, and the current Palo Alto staff of 130 people will be doubled by the end of 2017.