Ford sees itself as a part of $2.3 trillion automotive industry where it has 6 percent market share as well as $5.4 trillion transportation market. The company plans to offer its vehicle not only as a hardware which moves a person from A to B, but more as a platform for delivery services. On top of that, the company will offer an overall customer experience which includes autonomous driving, services, and even financing.
Ford is working together with several companies such as Velodyne for its solid-state hybrid Ultra Puck auto sensor for precision mapping and DJI for its drone-to-vehicle technology for emergency services. It is also creating its own researcher team to experiment on vehicles that will be able to drive themselves as well as how to use voice command to get the car started in the morning. The company even offer financing services through Ford Credit. All these will fall under Ford Smart Mobility.
Ford is also working with Amazon with its Eco device and Alexa cloud platform to integrate cars with other smart things in the home. Therefore, parents who are also Ford car owners will be able to do things like checking out whether their kids are already at home while they are on the way back.
Ford is able to do most of the things by themselves. However, the company is also looking for opportunities to work with partners to develop things together whereby both Ford and its partner will contribute into the development of the new product. It will not come in a situation whereby Ford becomes a contract manufacturer for other company.
For autonomous vehicle, the company has moved on to advanced engineering phase whereby the feasibility study has been done and they are in the phase on how to convert it into a reality.
Ford is expanding its testing fleet from 10 to 30 vehicles with most of the work done in Em City, its own proving ground in Dearborn. Some of the work will be done in California. Recently, the company announced that it has received license to operate autonomous vehicles in California.
Ford is working together with Velodyne to shrink the size of LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensor which is used to do a precise 360 degree of 3D mapping of the surrounding area of the car which is critical to have a really clear sense of whatever happening within the environment in order for the car to make the correct driving decision. Sensors and cameras by themselves can not give a complete picture of the surrounding but the combinations of them can do it.
As for Ford’s autonomous vehicle development, according to Don Butler, executive director of Ford’s connected vehicles and services, the technical side is coming along really well. However, there are still challenges on how to handle unexpected things like pedestrian or cyclist behaviour which the system unable to predict. The company is also looking on deep learning algorithm to understand how to encounter such behaviour. From the technical standpoint, it will only take another four years for the self driving technology to be mature.
Another challenges are on the regulatory, liability, societal issues as well as the ever changing landscape which the company needs to adapt. For the regulatory, liability and societal sides, Ford is working together with universities and government to overcome them while focusing on technical side on handling the ever changing landscape.
Ford wants to make vehicles which meet consumer expectations. The goal in autonomous fleet is to get driver completely out of the equation. There are two different paths that are happening. One way is semi autonomous which the system is able to assist with things like adaptive cruise control or panic stop braking automatically. The other way is to be completely autonomous whereby the vehicle can drive itself. However, to be completely autonomous Ford will need to come up with ways to handle unexpected situation.
In for the logistic industry, Ford is working with Telogis, a company which work together with other companies to manage large fleets of vehicles. Ford provides telematics capability such as managing and monitoring fuel consumption, logistics planning, map pathing as well as planning for those vehicles to be out in the market.
Ford is looking for ways to interact and intersect with areas of opportunity and understands how it can help to create a new future. They are placing themselves in the mobility business. The company has been around for 113 years and it will be around for many more years to come.