FORD has thrown its hat into the autonomous ring today, announcing that it plans to have high-volume fully autonomous cars in production by 2021.
The manufacturer has been working on the research and development of autonomous vehicles for more than a decade now. It says its first fully autonomous vehicle will be without a steering wheel or accelerator pedal and brake pedal.
It is being specifically designed for commercial mobility services, such as ride sharing and ride hailing, and will be available in high volumes.
To get there, the company is investing in and collaborating with four startups to enhance its autonomous vehicle development, doubling its Silicon Valley team and more than doubling its Palo Alto campus.
Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO said: ‘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. 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.’
Ford executive vice president, Global Product Development, and chief technical officer Raj Nair added: ‘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.’
Ford says that autonomous vehicles in 2021 are part of Ford Smart Mobility, the company’s plan to be a leader in autonomous vehicles, as well as in connectivity, mobility, the customer experience, and data and analytics.
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 saloon on the roads in California, Arizona and Michigan, with plans to triple it again next year.