In this year’s CES press conference which was held in Las Vegas, Nevada, Ford announced its plans to move towards autonomous vehicles development. Firstly, the company said that it would triple its autonomous vehicle testing fleet.
According to Raj Nair, Ford’s group vice president for product development, Ford will have 30 Fusion autonomous vehicles on the road and test tracks in California, Arizona and Michigan. This makes them the largest autonomous vehicle development fleet in the automotive industry. The fleet will be used to accumulate miles in real-world testing and thus it will further improve Ford’s software.
In the same occasion, Ford also revealed its third generation LIDAR technology which is currently used in its self driving cars. The device was named Ultra Puck and it was manufactured by Velodyne. It is much smaller but it has longer sensing range by 200 meters from its last generation. On top of that, it has an improved precision allowing it to better create maps and models for testing.
Mark Fields, Ford’s CEO said that when the first Ford autonomous vehicle comes out, it would not just be for those folks who bought luxury vehicles, instead, it would be an autonomous vehicle designed to serve millions of customers.
Fields also added that Ford would continue to work with others, not just on vehicles for retail customers, but also on autonomous vehicles to provide transportation as a service and that includes serving customers who might not own a vehicle in the future such as the young, elderly, and those looking for an alternative to mass transit.
Ford was rumored to be working together with Google to help it develop its autonomous technology although it was not mentioned in the press conference.