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Ford to introduce autonomous ride-sharing vehicle by 2021

Date: 17 August 2016   |   Author: Daniel Puddicombe

Ford has announced it intends to have autonomous vehicles operating ride-hailing services in North American cities New York and Austin by 2021.

To achieve this, the American car maker said it will double its research and development team in California to 260 people while also investing in or collaborating with four driverless vehicle start-ups.

The mass-produced vehicle will not have a steering wheel or pedals and is being designed with ride-sharing services in mind.

A Ford spokeswoman told BusinessCar that its driverless vehicle car-sharing programme has "intentions to expand beyond North America" as it is a global company but no timescales are available yet.

At the moment, Ford operates a fleet of 10 autonomous test vehicles in America, and it announced it plans to triple the number of vehicles on its fleet this year and again in 2017.

The four start-ups Ford is working with are:

  • Velodyne: Silicon Valley-based company which specialises in light detection and ranging sensors. The companies are aiming to mass-produce a more affordable sensor in the future. Ford has a longstanding relationship with Velodyne, and used the sensors for high-resolution mapping for 10 years.
  • SAIPS: Ford acquired the Israel-based machine learning firm this year to increase its knowledge of artificial intelligence, allowing the autonomous vehicles to learn and adapt to the surroundings of their environment.
  • Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC: The car manufacturer has an exclusive licensing agreement with the machine vision business. Ford said its partnership with Nirenberg Neuroscience "will help bring humanlike intelligence to the machine learning modules of its autonomous vehicle virtual driver systems."
  • Civil Maps: Ford has invested in the organisation to further develop high-resolution 3D maps.

"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."