Ford to test self-driving cars in Calif.
Ford Motor Co. will begin test-driving fully autonomous Fusion hybrids on California roads in 2016, the Dearborn automaker announced Tuesday night.
Ford has been testing driverless cars in some capacity for 10 years, and earlier this year became the first automaker to test a fully autonomous Fusion at Mcity, an Ann Arbor automotive proving ground intended to help Michigan lead in driverless-car technology.
Google has been testing its own autonomous vehicle in California since 2009.
In January, Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation allowing for testing of self-driving cars in Michigan, joining Florida, Nevada and California with similar laws. Testing is also taking place in Pennsylvania without any special legislation. Ford did not say if or when it plans to test-drive the car on roads in the Great Lakes State.
The new California tests come as Ford ramps up its “Smart Mobility” plan, which included the opening earlier this year of a research and innovation center in Palo Alto, California. The center includes 100 researchers, engineers and scientists.
“Our Palo Alto team has grown significantly this year, using research and innovation to explore and develop future mobility solutions,” Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO, said in a statement. “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.”
Roughly 80 percent of the Palo Alto team joined Ford from the technology sector, the automaker said. The remaining 20 percent are Ford employees from the United States, China, Germany and Australia who bring automotive engineering and design expertise.
The Palo Alto site works with partners including the University of California-Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University, Santa Clara and San Jose State.
“Having a strong presence in Silicon Valley allows us to further accelerate our research on a wide range of technologies, and apply our insights to create real-world mobility solutions,” Ken Washington, Ford vice president, research and advanced engineering, said in a statement.
Ford first revealed its autonomous Fusion in 2013. The company is currently in the “advanced engineering” phase of its autonomous car production, meaning it’s working to make sensing and computing technologies feasible for production while continuing to test and refine algorithms.
Fields has said he expects some automaker to come up with a fully autonomous vehicle within five years.
In addition to autonomous vehicle testing, Ford is experimenting in a number of mobility areas, including ride-sharing, car-hailing apps and the creation of e-bicycles. Earlier this month it announced a new Uber-like app and shuttle service to help employees get around its Dearborn offices and buildings.
The shuttle is one of Ford’s 25 mobility experiments, announced by Fields last January. The experiments cover everything from car-sharing to parking spot-finding apps.
Last summer, the automaker moved from the “experiment” phase to the “pilot” phase for a couple of the experiments, including the GoDrive car-share service.