Ford Doubles Silicon Valley Workforce, Eyes Autonomous Cars

Ford to Make Autonomous Cars for Ride-Hailing, Ride-Sharing by 2021

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Ford fully autonomous Fusion Hybrid research vehicle on streets of Dearborn, MI.
Ford fully autonomous Fusion Hybrid research vehicle on streets of Dearborn, MI. Credit: The Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Co. today said it plans to introduce an autonomous vehicle by 2021 for use in a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service. Ford said the vehicle would be "specifically designed for commercial mobility services" and built in high volumes.

"Ford is going to be mass-producing vehicles with full autonomy in five years," CEO Mark Fields said at an event in Silicon Valley that was broadcast online. "There's going to be no steering wheel, there's not going to be a gas pedal, there's not going to be a brake pedal and of course a driver is not going to be required."

To help accomplish that goal, Ford said it is investing in Velodyne, a company that makes lidar sensors used to detect objects around a vehicle, and Civil Maps, which has developed a more efficient 3-D mapping technology. Ford and Chinese search engine giant Baidu Inc. are investing $75 million each into Velodyne.

Ford also said it has acquired an Israel-based company called SAIPS, which helps vehicles learn and adapt to their surroundings, and reached an exclusive licensing agreement with a "machine vision" company called Nirenberg Neuroscience.

Ford said it is doubling the size of its workforce in Silicon Valley to 260 people by the end of next year and increasing its office space there from one 30,000-square-foot building to three buildings totaling 180,000 square feet.

Nick Bunkley is a reporter for Automotive News

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