CARS.COM — Ford is literally doubling down on its commitment to autonomous driving. The Detroit automaker today announced its plans for a 100-percent expansion of its team of tech startups with the goal of having a high-volume, fully autonomous ride-sharing or ride-hailing vehicle on the streets within five years.
Ford's first fully autonomous vehicle, the automaker said, will be a SAE International-rated level 4-capable car, meaning it will have no human controls such as brakes, an accelerator or a steering wheel, and it will be designed specifically for high-volume commercial use. Ford is targeting the year 2021 for the rollout of its autonomous car as part of the Ford Smart Mobility initiative, the stated goal of which is to make it a leader in driverless technology, connectivity, data and analytics.
"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," Ford President and CEO Mark Fields said in a statement.
Ford's plan calls for the tripling of its existing self-driving test fleet operating in California, Arizona and Michigan to about 30 Fusion Hybrid sedans this year — then tripling it again in 2017. The automaker is also vastly expanding its partnerships with Silicon Valley firms to bolster development of 3-D mapping capabilities; light detection and ranging, or LIDAR, sensors; advanced radar and camera sensors; and artificial intelligence.