Ford invests in tech companies to further develop autonomous vehicles
The collaborations will enhance Ford's capabilities in areas such as advanced algorithms, 3D mapping, LiDAR, and radar and camera sensors.
Ford is on target to produce fully autonomous vehicles for commercial operation by 2021. The automaker announced that it plans to design the vehicles for ride-hailing or ride sharing services.
In order to make this plan a reality, the company is collaborating with four startups to enhance its autonomous vehicle development. With this, Ford is almost doubling its Silicon Valley team.
“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 Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO.
The first fully autonomous car will be a Society of Automotive Engineers-defined level 4-capable vehicle. The automaker plans to design the vehicle to operate without a steering wheel, gas or brake pedal, for use in commercial mobility services such as ride sharing and ride hailing within geo-fenced areas and be available in high volumes.
Ford has been involved in the development of autonomous vehicles for the past 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,” says Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, Global Product Development, and chief technical officer. “That is what it takes to make autonomous vehicles a reality for millions of people around the world.”
Today, the auto manufacturer has approximately 30 self-diving vehicles being tested on the roads and plans to triple this by next year.
Ford announced four key investments and collaborations to enhance its capabilities in areas such as advanced algorithms, 3D mapping, LiDAR, and radar and camera sensors:
Velodyne: Ford has invested in Velodyne, the Silicon Valley-based leader in light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensors. The aim is to quickly mass-produce a more affordable automotive LiDAR sensor.
SAIPS: Ford has acquired the Israel-based computer vision and machine learning company to further strengthen its expertise in artificial intelligence and enhance computer vision. SAIPS has developed algorithmic solutions in image and video processing, deep learning, signal processing and classification.
Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC: Ford has an exclusive licensing agreement with Nirenberg Neuroscience, a machine vision company founded by neuroscientist Dr. Sheila Nirenberg, who cracked the neural code the eye uses to transmit visual information to the brain. This has led to a powerful machine vision platform for performing navigation, object recognition, facial recognition and other functions, with many potential applications.
Civil Maps: Ford has invested in Berkeley, California-based Civil Maps to further develop high-resolution 3D mapping capabilities.
Ford also is expanding its Silicon Valley operations, creating a dedicated campus in Palo Alto.