Ford triples investments in semi-autonomous vehicle technologies
Ford CEO Mark Fields confirmed Ford’s SYNC 3 connectivity technology is coming to Europe and is committed to tripling Ford’s engineering investment in semi-autonomous vehicle technologies as the company continues to expand its Ford Smart Mobility plan.
Fields’ keynote at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona will focus on Ford’s transition from an automotive company to an auto and a mobility company through Ford Smart Mobility – the company plans to be a leader in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, customer experience, and data and analytics.
Ford is taking two distinct pathways toward vehicle automation. First, the company has a dedicated team developing driver assist technology that is focused on delivering increasing levels of automation. Traffic Jam Assist helps the driver with steering, braking and acceleration in heavily congested traffic situations on motorways. Easily activated by pushing a button, the system helps keep the vehicle centred in the lane, and brakes and accelerates to keep pace with the vehicle in front.
Fully Active Park Assist will help drivers by steering and controlling the transmission, throttle and brake to seamlessly pull into a parking spot at the touch of a button.
Further semi-autonomous technologies already introduced by Ford include Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, a camera- and radar-based system that detects vehicles and people in the road ahead; and Intelligent Speed Limiter, which could help prevent drivers from exceeding speed limits, and potentially from incurring costly speeding penalties.
“The use of semi-autonomous functions such as Traffic Jam Assist and Fully Active Park Assist make driving easier and more enjoyable for our customers,” said Ken Washington, vice president, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering.
As for the future, Ford also has a dedicated fully autonomous vehicle programme in Aachen, Germany, and in Palo Alto, California, and Dearborn, Michigan, in the U.S., with more than a decade of experience.
Ford is seeking to deliver autonomous capability that does not require driver input described by the SAE International as Level 4 of automation. At this level of capability, autonomous vehicles will likely be offered first in climates that support optimal sensor performance and in areas that have been mapped in high resolution 3D.
Ford is already the first automaker to test fully autonomous vehicles in winter weather, including snow, and recently announced plans to triple the company’s autonomous vehicle development fleet, making it the largest of all automakers.
“We are committed to making autonomous vehicles available for millions of people,” Washington said. “Within well-defined areas and with favourable environmental conditions, we predict that fully autonomous driving will be possible within four years, and that autonomous vehicles will play a significant role in making travel safer, more enjoyable, and more accessible.”