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INNOVATIVE

TO STEER OR NOT TO STEER

The autonomous car is on its way. Ford is entering the final stages of development at its Research & Innovation Center in Palo Alto in the heart of Silicon Valley. So how will your future car – one that steers, navigates, brakes and accelerates without your interference – change mobility?

Ford Vignale Lifestyle sign of the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto

Ford Smart Mobility

In January this year Ford introduced Ford Smart Mobility to the world. This affirms Ford’s plans to accelerate innovation in connectivity, mobility, customer experience, big data and autonomous vehicles. They’re all equally important because they’re all related, but the idea of a self-driving car particularly fires the imagination. What has always been science fiction is now on the brink of happening – a car that takes over all of the controls and brings us quickly, safely and comfortably to our destination.

Autonomous car

Ford CEO Mark Fields declared earlier this year that it is likely the first autonomous car will be seen on roads as early as 2020. However, we’ll have to wait until 2035 or 2040 before technology and legislation are so far developed that you can get in your car, fall asleep and wake up only when you’ve arrived at your destination. Ford certainly has the knowledge and technology to be the first to deliver a fully automated vehicle. After all, it already has semi-autonomous vehicles on the road today. It is not the company’s ambition to be first by doing whatever it takes. “We may or may not come out with a fully autonomous vehicle in that timeframe, because our approach is that when we do, we want to make sure that it’s accessible for everyone and not just, let’s say, luxury car customers”, says Fields.

Ford Smart Mobility programme

Immediately after announcing its Smart Mobility programme, Ford opened a research centre in the beating heart of the high-tech world: Palo Alto, Silicon Valley. The main goal is to drive innovation. With some 125 researchers, engineers and scientists, it’s one of the biggest automotive research centres in Silicon Valley. All the key themes declared in the Ford Smart Mobility programme are being translated into relevant research in this new leading facility. For the research on autonomous driving, Ford has formed an alliance with the world-famous Stanford University, also located in Palo Alto. Ford will deliver the Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle to the university’s engineers for next phase of on-road testing.

Safe and efficient

The autonomous car will increase passenger safety enormously. When all cars are connected to each other, are aware of each other’s exact locations, can tell the road conditions and understand traffic situations, accidents are unlikely to happen. And what about road efficiency? Autonomous cars are safe to drive much closer to each other than humans are capable of. So every inch of the road will be in use, reducing the chances of traffic jams to a minimum. Inner cities will be less congested and less time spent on the road will reduce the use of energy sources. Beyond the practical benefits, according to Ravi Shanker, an analyst at the research division of leading investment bank Morgan Stanley, autonomous cars could contribute $5.6 trillion in annual savings globally. It’s a mind-blowing amount that says everything about the impact of autonomous driving.

Have a look at the biggest automotive research centres in Silicon Valley: research.ford.com

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