Ford Motor Company announced plans to develop and build a fleet of true self-driving vehicles to be used expressly in ride-sharing/ride-hailing market and have them on the road by 2021. In making the announcement, Ford’s president and CEO Mark Fields stated these cars will be part of the ongoing Ford Smart Mobility effort aimed at making the firm a leader in autonomous vehicles, as well as in connectivity, mobility, customer experience and data and analytics.

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Ford also will expand its current Silicon Valley Research and Innovation facility well as make new investments in four key related technology firms. Those include leading LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensor experts Velodyne, 3D mapping pioneers Civil Maps, the Israel-based computer vision and machine-learning organization SAIPS and Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC, a firm specializing in advanced machine vision. 

No steering wheel or pedals

Fields offered few specifics about Ford’s upcoming autonomous fleet, save that it would be strictly confined to “commercial mobility services.” However, he did point out the vehicles would be fully Level 4 capable under the current SAE definitions – a status that equates to High Automation – and were planned “to operate without a steering wheel or gas and brake pedals.” Ford currently is conducting on-road testing in Arizona, California and Michigan with a fleet of 30 Fusion Hybrid sedans equipped with autonomous capability and has plans to triple that number next year.

“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,” noted Fields. “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.”

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