Ford will begin testing self-driving cars on public roads in California next year.
Fully autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid sedans will take to the streets after the company secured a permit to begin testing the vehicles on public roads in the state.
Ford opened a Research and Innovation Centre in Palo Alto, California in January this year where researchers, engineers and scientists have since been working on innovative technology.
“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.”
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Ford is officially enrolled in the California Autonomous Vehicle Testing Program to test autonomous vehicles on public roads.
The news that self-driving cars will hit public roads next year follows Ford CEO Mark Fields prediction in November that the company’s fully autonomous car project could be on the road in four years’ time.
Testing on fully autonomous cars has already taken place at MCity, a simulated city near Ford’s headquarters in Detroit, and the firm demonstrated their latest semi-autonomous driving technology, ‘Traffic Jam Assist’ at their Research Centre in Aachen, Germany last month.
Managing Director of the Aachen facility, Pim van der Jagt, told TrustedReviews at the time that consumer versions of self-driving cars could be a long way off.
“We will have autonomous vehicles but the first set will be in certain geographic areas, maybe California or somewhere else,” he said.
“Nobody can predict whether these fully autonomous vehicles will work under all environmental conditions. That makes it almost impossible to sell a 100% autonomous vehicle to an average person.”
Ford's Research and Innovation Centre in Aachen, Germany
With Google reported to be eyeing a 2020 release for their self-driving car project, Ford will be eager to ramp up testing to get their fully-autonomous cars to market, in whatever capacity they can, as soon as possible.
“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,” said Ken Washington, Ford vice president, Research and Advanced Engineering.
Some of the research being conducted at the centre in Silicon Valley includes a study on virtual interaction between an autonomous car and pedestrians, sensors on autonomous vehicles which provide a 360-degree view of the car’s surroundings, and camera sensors which allow the car to “see” and sense pedestrians.
Next year’s road testing will be part of Ford’s 10-year autonomous vehicle development program and Ford Smart Mobility, a plan aimed at developing new technology to improve connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics.