Ford to begin autonomous vehicle testing on California roads; Silicon Valley Lab accelerates Smart Mobility Plan
Fully autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid sedans will begin testing on California streets next year, as Ford Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto continues growing.
Ford is officially enrolled in the California Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program to test autonomous vehicles on public roads. The testing is further advancement of Ford’s 10-year autonomous vehicle development program and a key element of Ford Smart Mobility, the plan to take the company to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics.
|Autonomous Ford Fusion outside the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto. Click to enlarge.|
The current (as of 3 December 2015) approved participants in the California program in addition to Ford are: Volkswagen Group of America; Mercedes Benz; Google; Delphi Automotive; Tesla Motors; Bosch; Nissan; Cruise Automation; BMW; and Honda.
Ford Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto is one of the largest automotive manufacturer research centers in the region, with a team of more than 100 researchers, engineers and scientists. The new research lab opened in January, expanding Ford’s presence in Silicon Valley, which began in 2012.
Eighty percent of the Palo Alto team joined Ford from the technology sector. The remaining 20% are Ford employees from the United States, China, Germany and Australia who bring automotive engineering and design expertise.
Ford expanded its Silicon Valley facility from a 15-person office to a 100-plus-person research and development center. Research the lab has conducted this past year includes:
Autonomous vehicle virtual test drive: This study allows virtual interaction between an autonomous car and pedestrians, replicating real-world situations to better understand and develop responses to some of the unexpected things that can happen on the road.
Sensor fusion: Sensors on autonomous vehicles 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, and pedestrians.
Camera-based pedestrian detection. Camera sensors serve as the eyes of a vehicle, allowing the car to “see” and sense pedestrians.
Data-driven health care. Through data collection from Ranger pickups and motorcycles outfitted with OpenXC technology, Ford is working with Riders for Health to collect GPS data and mapping coordinates to make health care, vaccines and medication delivery to people throughout rural Africa more efficient and accessible.
OpenXC is a combination of open source hardware and software supporting custom automotive applications and pluggable modules. It uses standard, well-known tools to open up a wealth of data from the vehicle to developers, even beyond OBD-II.
Ford has cultivated relationships with top universities this year, including University of California-Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University, Santa Clara and San Jose State. The company is further expanding its strategic research collaboration with Stanford in 2016, planning 13 projects covering all five areas of Ford Smart Mobility—more than double the number of collaborations this year.