Although we don't know what the new autonomous fleet will look like, Ford's vehicle will meet the SAE level 4 rating, meaning it will lack a steering wheel, gas, or brake pedals, much like the Local Motors Olli. The vehicle will be designed from the outset as a commercial product meant for large-scale fleet sales.
The automaker has been working on autonomous technology for years, and, since the beginning of 2016, has been significantly ramping up its monetary and research investment. In April, Ford announced a partnership with Uber and Lyft to develop safe, self-driving vehicles. Ford's partnership with LiDAR manufacturer Velodyne has been particularly fruitful. Ford and Chinese search-engine Baidu are investing another $150 million into the company.
Because Velodyne remains independent, Ford's investment could help bring LiDAR tech to other automakers, if Velodyne decided to share the tech. Ford has been testing LiDAR on an ever increasing fleet of Fusions in Michigan, California, and Arizona. The company believes LiDAR is the answer to some of the current limitations of autonomous technology.
In addition to Velodyne, Ford has invested in 3D mapping company Civil Maps and acquired Israeli computer vision and machine learning company SAIPS. It has also signed an exclusive agreement with Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC, a machine vision company.