Targeting fully autonomous vehicle for ride sharing in 2021

August 16, 2016

We are announcing our intent to have a high-volume, fully autonomous vehicle in commercial operation in 2021 in a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service.

To get there, we are investing in or collaborating with four startups to enhance our autonomous vehicle development, doubling our Silicon Valley team and more than doubling our Palo Alto campus.

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“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,” said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO. “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.”


Autonomous vehicles in 2021 are part of Ford Smart Mobility, our plan to be a leader in autonomous vehicles, as well as in connectivity, mobility, the customer experience, and data and analytics.


Building on more than a decade of autonomous vehicle research and development, our first fully autonomous vehicle will be a Society of Automotive Engineers-rated level 4-capable vehicle without a steering wheel, or accelerator and brake pedals. It is being specifically designed for commercial mobility services, such as ride sharing and ride hailing, and will be available in high volumes.


“Ford has been developing and testing autonomous vehicles for more than 10 years,” said Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, Global Product Development, and chief technical officer. “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.”


We are also announcing four key investments and collaborations that are expanding our strong research in advanced algorithms, 3D mapping, LiDAR, and radar and camera sensors:


Velodyne: We have invested in Velodyne, the Silicon Valley-based leader in light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensors. The aim is to quickly mass-produce a more affordable automotive LiDAR sensor. We have a longstanding relationship with Velodyne, and were among the first to use LiDAR for both high-resolution mapping and autonomous driving beginning more than 10 years ago


SAIPS: We have 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 our autonomous vehicles learn and adapt to the surroundings of their environment


Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC: We have 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: We have invested in Berkeley, California-based Civil Maps to further develop high-resolution 3D mapping capabilities. We are also expanding our 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 our local footprint and supports plans to double the size of the Palo Alto team by the end of 2017.
“Our presence in Silicon Valley has been integral to accelerating our learning and deliverables driving Ford Smart Mobility,” said Ken Washington, Ford vice president, Research and Advanced Engineering.