Ford gears-up for fully-autonomous, ride sharing fleet by 2021
Automotive giant Ford have announced plans to roll-out fully autonomous vehicles, in high volumes, by 2021 as part of a collaborative commercial mobility service that ventures into the sharing economy market.
After almost a decade of research into autonomous vehicle development, Ford are planning to produce a SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Level 4 vehicle without steering wheel, gas or brake pedal for use in ride-hailing or ride sharing services.
“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,” said Ford president and chief executive Mark Fields. “We’re dedicated to putting on the road an autonomous vehicle that can improve safety and solve social and environmental challenges for millions of people – not just those who can afford luxury vehicles.”
The company will be collaborating with four independent start-ups to aid in autonomous vehicle development as well as doubling its own Silicon Valley team and more than doubling its Palo Alto campus in California.
As a result of this collaborative effort, Ford is aiming to triple its current autonomous fleet by the end of 2016 in order to be the largest current test fleet of any car manufacturer. The company hopes to be road testing 30 autonomous fusion-hybrid sedans in California, Arizona and Michigan – with plans to triple the number again in 2017.
Ford’s executive vice president of global product development, and chief technical officer Raj Nair said: “Ford has been developing and testing autonomous vehicles for more than 10 years … We have a strategic advantage because of our ability to combine the software and sensing technology with the sophisticated engineering necessary to manufacture high-quality vehicles. That is what it takes to make autonomous vehicles a reality for millions of people around the world.”
There has been an increasing push by automotive manufacturers to build upon their self-driving portfolios. Jaguar and Volvo have been making pushes towards building autonomous fleets whilst Tesla revealed that upcoming models will be equipped with autonomous features that will allow owners to use their cars as a self-driving city transport service when not in use.
This announcement comes in the wake of other sustainable initiatives by Ford this year. The company has specifically turned to reducing its overall carbon emissions through the implementation of carbon based foam products in their cars, collaborative plans to turn tequila into Biofuels and cutting energy and water consumption at its Dagenham facility by half.