Ford’s says it will start shipping fully autonomous vehicles in high volumes by 2021. The cars will come without a steering wheel or gas and brake pedals, and is being specifically designed for commercial mobility services, such as ride sharing and ride hailing. In a statement, Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO, said the company is dedicated to putting autonomous vehicles for millions of people on the road.

This year, Ford will triple its autonomous vehicle test fleet – bringing the number to about 30 self-driving Fusion Hybrid sedans on the roads in California, Arizona and Michigan, with plans to triple it again next year.

Ford is doubling its Silicon Valley team and more than doubling its Palo Alto campus. Earlier this year, Ford had created a new subsidiary Ford Smart Mobility, to design, build, grow and invest in emerging mobility services. The automaker is now investing in two companies, and acquiring a third, as part of its smart mobility push. 

Working with startups

Ford has invested in Velodyne, a Silicon Valley-based company that makes light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensors. The aim is to quickly mass-produce a more affordable automotive LiDAR sensor, says the automaker.

Ford has acquired Israel-based computer vision and machine learning company SAIPS. SAIPS has developed algorithmic solutions in image and video processing, deep learning, signal processing and classification; this expertise is expected to help Ford autonomous vehicles learn and adapt to the surroundings of their environment

Ford has inked an exclusive licensing agreement with Nirenberg Neuroscience, a machine vision company founded by neuroscientist Dr. Sheila Nirenberg. Ford’s partnership with Nirenberg Neuroscience will help bring humanlike intelligence to the machine learning modules of its autonomous vehicle virtual driver system, says the automaker.

Ford has invested in Berkeley, California-based 3D mapping company Civil Maps, and will be developing high-resolution 3D maps of autonomous vehicle environments.

[Image courtesy: Ford]