Ford is tripling its fleet of Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicles this year, making the company’s fully autonomous vehicle fleet the largest of all automakers and accelerating the development and testing of its virtual driver software in both urban and suburban environments.
This year, Ford will add 20 Fusion Hybrid autonomous vehicles, bringing the company’s autonomous fleet in the US to about 30 vehicles being tested on roads in California, Arizona, and Michigan. “Using the most advanced technology and expanding our test fleet are clear signs of our commitment to make autonomous vehicles available for millions of people,” said Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, global product development, and chief technical officer. "With more autonomous vehicles on the road, we are accelerating the development of software algorithms that serve to make our vehicles even smarter.”
Building on more than a decade of Ford autonomous vehicle research, this expansion is a key element of Ford Smart Mobility, the plan to take Ford to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, customer experience, and data and analytics. The newest vehicles are on Ford’s third-generation autonomous vehicle development platform, built using Fusion Hybrid sedans, similar to the second-generation platform.
Ford recently announced its fully autonomous cars will take to the streets of California this year. The company already tests autonomous vehicles at its proving grounds, as well as on public roads in Michigan. Ford was the first automaker to test a fully autonomous vehicle at Mcity, a 32-acre, full-scale simulated real-world urban environment at the University of Michigan.
Fusion Hybrid sedans were chosen for the second-generation vehicles because they have the newest and most advanced electrical architecture. With the latest generation of computers and sensors, including the smaller but more advanced Velodyne LiDAR HDL-32E sensor, Ford’s autonomous vehicle platform moved a step closer to production.
The objective of the second-generation vehicle fleet is to test many of the computing and sensor components required to achieve fully autonomous driving capability, as defined by SAE International Level 4, which does not require the driver to intervene and take control of the vehicle. Last summer, Ford transitioned from the research phase of development to the advanced engineering phase.
Meanwhile, Ford continues to hone other types of sensors, including cameras, radar, and ultrasonic devices, to deliver semi-autonomous features to customers today. These include adaptive cruise control, active park assist, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping aid, pedestrian detection, pro trailer backup assist, and vehicle-to-vehicle connection technology already available on millions of Ford vehicles today.