The future is closer than you think. Wayne Gerdes – CleanMPG – Aug. 16, 2016 Ford intends to place a high-volume, fully autonomous SAE level 4-capable vehicle in commercial operation by 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. 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. Ford’s Efforts in Autonomous Vehicles Like all OEMs, Ford has been working on Autonomous vehicles for more than a decade and has now publicly committed to a release date. Ford’s first fully autonomous vehicle will be a SAE level 4-capable vehicle. 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. Ford was the first automaker to begin testing its vehicles at Mcity, University of Michigan’s simulated urban environment, the first automaker to publicly demonstrate autonomous vehicle operation in the snow and the first automaker to test its autonomous research vehicles at night, in complete darkness, as part of LiDAR sensor development. 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. The 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. 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. 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. Nirenberg Neuroscience will help bring humanlike intelligence to the machine learning modules of its autonomous vehicle virtual driver system. 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 that is scalable and more efficient than existing processes. This provides Ford another way to develop high-resolution 3D maps of autonomous vehicle environments. Autonomous Ford Fusion Testing on public roads with driver behind the wheel. Ford also is expanding its Silicon Valley operations by adding two new buildings and 150,000 square feet of work and lab space adjacent to the current Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto. The facility will double the size of the current Palo Alto team by the end of 2017. Since the new Ford Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto opened in January 2015, the facility has rapidly grown to be one of the largest automotive manufacturer research centers in the region. Today, it is home to more than 130 researchers, engineers and scientists, who are increasing Ford’s collaboration with the Silicon Valley ecosystem. 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. UBER or LYFT, can I request a ride in a Nissan IDS or Ford Fusion Hybrid without a driver?