CARS.COM — Ford announced plans to debut a self-driving Fusion Hybrid development vehicle at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show running Jan. 5-8 in Las Vegas and the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit shortly after. Calling it the “next-generation autonomous development vehicle,” Ford said the new self-driving Fusion Hybrid boasts faster computer processing, sleeker sensors and an upgraded platform.
This doesn’t indicate a full redesign of the Fusion Hybrid, and you won’t be able to buy the self-driving cars anytime soon. Still, the changes are significant. Ford will base its forthcoming self-driving test cars on the refreshed 2017 Fusion Hybrid, spokesman Karl Henkel told Cars.com. The cars still employ the automaker’s current self-driving vehicle platform, but the upgrades are “much more significant than the heavy  refresh” for the Fusion, he added.
The automaker says the controls on the forthcoming Fusion Hybrid development car are “closer to production-ready,” and the sensors are both sleeker and better able to detect surrounding objects. Indeed, the new test car swaps its predecessor’s quartet of whirring rooftop sensors for a pair of raised bars above the windows that look like bulky roof rails.
Ford’s current generation of test cars — all modified Fusion Hybrid sedans — hail from the 2013-16 Fusion Hybrid, but Henkel said Ford plans to triple its fleet to 90 test cars by the end of 2017. That’s up from the current 30. Ford tests them in Arizona, California and Michigan.
In September, Ford announced plans to have self-driving employee shuttles at its Michigan campus by 2018, en route to a fully self-driving car — with no steering wheel or pedals — for commercial use by 2021.