Ford Entering Full Autonomous Market by 2021

Published: August 17, 2016

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



US-based automotive giant Ford Motor Company has announced that it is pressing ahead with its autonomous vehicle plans. Indeed, the company says that it plans to launch a “high-volume, fully autonomous SAE level 4-capable vehicle in commercial operation in 2021 in a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service.”

To boost its autonomous ambitions, the Michigan giant says it is collaborating with four startups that specialize in driverless related technology.  These startups will help Ford’s vehicle development teams and collaborate with the company’s Silicon Valley tech division.

“The next decade will be defined by automation of the automobile, and we see autonomous vehicles as having as significant an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did 100 years ago,” said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO, in the statement. “We’re dedicated to putting on the road an autonomous vehicle that can improve safety and solve social and environmental challenges for millions of people – not just those who can afford luxury vehicles.”

While Ford has allowed other companies (Google and Tesla among them) the limelight, the company has been deep into development on its own autonomous tech. In fact, Ford has been creating its own autonomous development for over a decade. The company says its first fully driverless car will be a Society of Automotive Engineers-rated level 4-capable vehicle.

This car will come without a steering wheel, gas or brake pedals. In other words, it will be fully autonomous and ready within five years. At the moment Ford is orienting its technology to the commercial mobility services, which could have a profound impact on the ridesharing market. Ford will aim to sell the vehicles in high volumes.

The four startup investments are as follows:

    Velodyne: Ford has invested in Velodyne, the Silicon Valley-based company focused on LiDAR sensors, with an aim to “quickly mass-produce a more affordable automotive LiDAR sensor”;

    SAIPS: Ford has acquired the Israel-based computer vision and machine learning company to further strengthen its expertise in artificial intelligence and enhance computer vision. SAIPS has developed algorithmic solutions in image and video processing, deep learning, signal processing and classification. This expertise will help Ford autonomous vehicles learn and adapt to the surroundings of their environment;

    Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC: Ford has an exclusive licensing agreement with Nirenberg Neuroscience, a machine vision company founded by neuroscientist Dr. Sheila Nirenberg, who cracked the neural code the eye uses to transmit visual information to the brain. This has led to a “powerful machine vision platform for performing navigation, object recognition, facial recognition and other functions, with many potential applications,” Ford said. The automaker’s partnership with Nirenberg Neuroscience will help bring humanlike intelligence to the machine learning modules of its autonomous vehicle virtual driver system; and

    Civil Maps: Ford has invested in Berkeley, Calif.-based Civil Maps to further develop high-resolution 3D mapping capabilities. Civil Maps has pioneered an innovative 3D mapping technique that is scalable and more efficient than existing processes, Ford reports, providing the automaker with another way to develop high-resolution 3D maps of autonomous vehicle environments.