Carmaker Ford will soon send its fully self driving Ford Fusion Hybrid fleet of vehicles onto public roads after securing a California autonomous vehicle driving permit to begin testing.
Ford says it now has over a hundred researchers, engineers and scientists on staff at its Research and Innovation Centre in Palo Alto, making it one of the largest automotive research centres in the industry as part of the company’s ten-year plan to develop a fully autonomous car.
Ford’s new vehicles (pictured right) will come equipped with a wide range of sensors, which can detect and track objects in the vehicle’s view, fusing information together to provide a 360-degree view of the car’s surroundings – including street signs, other vehicles, even pedestrians.
The cars will also feature camera-based pedestrian detection, which allows the car to “see” and sense pedestrians, effectively acting as the vehicle’s eyes.
Looking forward, Ford hope that its real-world testing will now allow the company, and its Ford Smart Mobility program, to take the next step towards developing a consumer-facing autonomous vehicle.
“Our Palo Alto team has grown significantly this year, using research and innovation to explore and develop future mobility solutions,” said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO.
“We’re attracting top talent from around the world to join our team in Silicon Valley, including employees from local technology companies and universities who want to make people’s lives better by changing the way the world moves.”
The announcement comes days after Ford announced it also plans to increase its investment in electric and hybrid vehicles by $4.5 billion (£3bn) over the next five years, while adding 13 electric cars to its range by 2020 and expanding research into batteries, the company has announced.
In five years’ time more than 40 percent of the company’s models will come in electric versions, chief executive Mark Fields said.
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