California Is Ford’s Next Autonomous Testing Ground

Autonomous Ford Fusion

Ford has its California driving permit. This week, the automaker announced it’s officially enrolled in the California Autonomous Tester Program. It will start testing its fully autonomous Fusion Hybrid on California roads next year.

As of December 3, 2015, the California DMV has issued Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permits to the following companies:

  • Volkswagen Group of America
  • Mercedes Benz
  • Google
  • Delphi Automotive
  • Tesla Motors
  • Bosch
  • Nissan
  • Cruise Automation
  • BMW
  • Honda
  • Ford

Ford’s decision to test its self-driving vehicles in California, in addition to places like MCity in Michigan, makes a lot of sense. The automaker already has a lot going on in Silicon Valley. It has more than 100 researchers, engineers and scientists on staff at its Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto.  Ford opened the center back in 2012. It’s now one of the largest automotive research hubs in the region.

“Having a strong presence in Silicon Valley allows us to further accelerate our research on a wide range of technologies, and apply our insights to create real-world mobility solutions,” says Ken Washington, vice president of Ford Research and Advanced Engineering.

It’s certainly been a busy year for Ford on the technology front. Lab projects include an autonomous vehicle virtual test drive. The real-world driving simulation is being used to study driver reactions to the unexpected. In the past year, the lab has also researched sensors and how they can pull information from street signs, vehicles and even pedestrians. It’s even gotten into data-driven health care. The company is working with Riders for Health to collect GPS data and mapping coordinates to make health care, vaccines and medication delivery to people throughout rural Africa.

Ford is also expanding its partnership with Stanford. Next year, it also plans to nearly double its research projects with University. The pair teamed up in 2013 to focus on solving some of the technical challenges related to automated driving.

The other hotbed for autonomous driving is Nevada. This week Kia was the latest to announce it will soon test its self-driving vehicles there.  Google, Audi and Mercedes-Benz already do.

Photo Credit: Ford
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