The Ford Motor Company is an American carmaker founded by Henry Ford in 1903. It is the second largest car producer in the US. According to the company statements, it has been making its own research in the field of self-driving cars technology for about one and a half decades.
On December 12, 2013, the company presented Fusion Hybrid having 4 LIDARs on its roof with the 360-degrees camera which has become the main object of their research and Ford self-driving cars engineering. The Fusion Hybrid model, available for sale, had several self-driving technology elements, namely: parking assistance, adaptive cruise control, proximity warning technology, and an emergency braking help system.
On January 22, 2014, this American carmaker announced the cooperation with Massachusetts Institute & Stanford University to make the joint research in the area of autonomous vehicles.
In December 2015, the company received an approval to perform tests of its own autonomous cars on public roads in California State.
On January 11, 2016, the company reveals intentions to perform tests of self-driving cars in snowy weather conditions to become the first amongst other companies who tested the technology in a similar environment. Bad weather conditions like snow are the serious obstacle for implementing the full-fledged self-driving process because LIDAR, cameras, and other equipment can’t track the surrounding environment in such conditions. According to Ford, this problem will be solved thanks to making new high-definition 3D maps of the world. These maps will be created when a car scans the surrounding landscape in fair weather conditions: the sensors will scan buildings, road signs, trees and so on. And when a car gets in snowy conditions and can’t sense the landscape, it will rely on the prior created 3D maps.
On August 16, 2016, Ford announced the intention to create the self-driving vehicle without a wheel and pedals by 2021. What is meant here is SAE of Level 4 automation. The car won’t require the operator’s influence but will be limited to some regions of movement only. On this day, in cooperation with Baidu, Ford invested $150 million into the Velodyne Company, which creates LIDAR sensors, to increase the development pace.
On September 9, 2016, Ford acquired Chariot for $65 million, a commuter ridesharing service that is something in between Uber and public transportation. This acquisition is fairly logical considering that all companies, engaged in the autonomous technologies development, peruse the same goal for the future when using pilotless taxicabs will be more profitable than possessing a car.
On December 28, 2016, the company presented Ford Fusion, the updated autonomous car version. The updated Fusion is almost the same as the ordinary car. Instead of 4 bulky LIDARs on the roof, only 2 now left and they are located on the front pillars being not that much spotted visually. The cameras are built-in in the trunk, on the roof, and under the windscreen. The trunk also contains a much more powerful computer that is capable of processing 1 Terabyte of data per hour.
On February 10, 2017, the company unveiled plans to invest 1 billion US dollars in the company named Argo AI during the next 5 years. This is the startup company, which was organized by Bryan Salesky, Google’s veteran, and Peter Rander, Uber’s engineer. Argo AI’s team employs specialists in robotics and Artificial Intelligence. Their work is primarily concentrated on the software to be installed in Ford’s self-driving cars.
On March 30, 2017, Ford invested additional 500 million Canadian dollars in creating the research center in Canada, Ottawa and to hire 400 engineers. In this data center, the most part of the hired engineers will work on autonomous cars, as well as on various auxiliary functions: car modems, gateway modules, informational and entertaining functions.
On March 2016, the Ford Motor Company announced the subsidiary company Ford Smart Mobility LLC creation with headquarters in Palo Alto, California. Jim Hackett became CEO of the newly created company but later, on May 21, 2017, he started to work as the Ford Motor Co. CEO, after Mark Fields, who had been in this position before, had left. Ford Smart Mobility LLC’s main vector of work is transportation mobility development which will be mostly implemented using the autonomous vehicles.