Ford launches self-driving car tests in California in 2016

Ford is the latest automaker to get permission to test driverless vehicles on public roads in California, and the company's fully autonomous Fusion Hybrid will hit the streets there in 2016. The Blue Oval's recently opened Silicon Valley research center will be the hotbed for the development of this cutting-edge technology.

The experimentation in California will be key to Ford's 10-year development program for autonomous tech. The company has been using the Silicon Valley lab to further these innovations with work like refining the way sensors detect and track objects. The engineers there have also worked to improve safety through camera-based pedestrian detection.

Since unveiling the autonomous Fusion Hybrid in late 2013, Ford has put a serious emphasis on developing driverless technology. The company worked with Stanford University to develop algorithms for it to predict the actions of other drivers, and the Fusion was the first vehicle to take a test drive around MCity in Ann Arbor, MI.

The California site for this new testing lets Ford keep an eye on competitors, too. Google's fleet of autonomous vehicles keep racking up the miles in the state with the occasional crash, and Audi also has a permit to test there.
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Ford secures California autonomous vehicle driving permit to begin testing fully autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid on public roads next year

Ford now has one of the largest automotive research centers in Silicon Valley with more than 100 engineers and scientists at its Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto.

Research lab in Palo Alto supports Ford Smart Mobility, the plan to take the company to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics

Palo alto, Calif., Dec. 16, 2015 – Fully autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid vehicles are taking to California streets next year, as Ford Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto continues to grow.

Ford is officially enrolled in the California Autonomous Vehicle Testing Program to test autonomous vehicles on public roads. This is part of Ford's 10-year autonomous vehicle development program and a key element of Ford Smart Mobility, the plan to take the company to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics.

Ford Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto is one of the largest automotive manufacturer research centers in the region,with a team of more than 100 engineers and scientists. The new research lab opened in January, expanding Ford's presence in Silicon Valley, which dates back to 2012.

Eighty per cent of the Palo Alto team joined Ford from the technology sector. The remaining 20 per cent are Ford employees from the United States, China, Germany and Australia who bring automotive engineering and design expertise.

"Our Palo Alto team has grown significantly this year, using research and innovation to explore and develop future mobility solutions," said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO. "We're attracting top talent from around the world to join our team in Silicon Valley, including employees from local technology companies and universities who want to make people's lives better by changing the way the world moves."

Advanced experimentation

Ford has expanded its Silicon Valley facility from a 15-person office to a research and development center with over 100 staff. Research that has been conducted there this past year includes:

Autonomous vehicle virtual test drive: This study allows virtual interaction between an autonomous car and pedestrians, replicating real-world situations to better understand and develop responses

Sensor fusion: Sensors on autonomous vehicles detect and track objects in the vehicle's view, combing information together to provide a 360-degree view of the car's surroundings – including street signs, other vehicles and pedestrians

Camera-based pedestrian detection: Camera sensors serve as the eyes of a vehicle, allowing the car to "see" pedestrians

Data-driven health care: Through data collection from Ranger pickups and motorcycles fitted with OpenXC technology, Ford is working with Riders for Health to collect GPS data and mapping coordinates to make health care, vaccines and medication delivery to people throughout rural Africa more efficient and accessible

Ford has developed relationships with top universities this year, including University of California-Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University, Santa Clara and San Jose State. The company is further expanding its strategic research collaboration with Stanford in 2016, planning 13 projects covering all five areas of Ford Smart Mobility – more than double the number of collaborations this year.

"Having a strong presence in Silicon Valley allows us to further accelerate our research on a wide range of technologies, and apply our insights to create real-world mobility solutions," said Ken Washington, Ford vice president, Research and Advanced Engineering.

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