CES 2016 – Ford Ramps Up Autonomous Vehicle, Drone Operations

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Ford trebles autonomous car fleet and will support $100,000 prize for the development of drone-to-vehicle technology targeted at use with the United Nations

Ford is tripling the size of its autonomous vehicle fleet in an bid to accelerate its self-driving car research.

The expansion will result in Ford owning the largest number of any major car manufacturer, gifting it an advantage in the development of autonomous driving software.

Ford already tests vehicles at its facilities and on public roads in its home state of Michigan and Arizona and recently announced plans to take to the streets of California this year.

Ford Growing

DroneTests will be boosted by the addition of 20 Fusion Hybrid autonomous vehicles, bringing the company’s autonomous fleet to about 30 vehicles.

It hopes the second-generation vehicle fleet will hope it to test many of the computing and sensor components required to achieve the next level of autonomous driving capability, which would not require the driver to intervene and take control of the vehicle at any point.

“Using the most advanced technology and expanding our test fleet are clear signs of our commitment to make autonomous vehicles available for millions of people,” said Raj Nair, Ford chief technical officer. “With more autonomous vehicles on the road, we are accelerating the development of software algorithms that serve to make our vehicles even smarter.”

Elsewhere at the show, Ford also launched a developer challenge in association with drone-maker DJI to help improve real-time drone-to-vehicle communications.

With $100,000 on offer for the winner, the companies are hoping to get the technology integrated into a surveying system for the United Nations Development Program, which would allow it to inspect emergency zones inaccessible to even the most versatile vehicles.

The technology could allow United Nations first responders to earthquakes or tsunamis to quickly deploy drones able to survey and map hardest-hit areas – all from the cab of a Ford F-150 vehicle.

“At Ford, we are driving innovation in every part of our business to help make people’s lives better,” said Ken Washington, Ford vice president, research and advanced engineering. “Working with DJI and the United Nations, there is an opportunity to make a big difference with vehicles and drones working together for a common good.”

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