Ford has laid out a broad vision for its future — and set itself an enormous challenge — from rolling out autonomous vehicles for deliveries and ridesharing, to building smart city technology.
In a slew of announcements made at CES in Las Vegas this week, the car maker detailed how it plans to transition into an automotive and mobility company — something it has been talking about for a while.
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Jim Farley, Ford Executive Vice President and President, Global Markets, announced that Ford will begin testing its self-driving cars in an unnamed city this year.
“We are working to verify that the technology underpinning future self-driving cars operates safely and reliably, to ensure that our self-driving vehicles are designed to deliver trusted experiences and to prove out that the business model under which they are deployed is viable,” he wrote in a blog post.
As well as piloting the vehicle technology, the tests will allow Ford to test its new partnership platform which may underpin its future business model.
Ford is working with partners — like Domino’s Pizza, Lyft, and Postmates — to see how they can put the car maker’s fleet of self-driving cars to use.
For example the company wants to identify “public transport dead zones” and fill the gaps by providing accessibility options with its own autonomous vehicles.
As well as ride-sharing applications, the car maker is also eyeing goods delivery. It envisages its autonomous cars being summoned by small or medium businesses to conduct deliveries, as an alternative to more traditional logistics options.
Connected Cars & Smart Cities
Ford already has 700,000 connected vehicles on the road and by next year, every new vehicle it makes for the United States will be connected.
These connected vehicles are the foundation for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) infrastructure, the company said, which would allow cars to communicate with each other as well as pedestrians, cyclists, and traffic lights.
Ford has announced a partnership with chipmaker Qualcomm to push the adoption of cellular vehicle-to-everything technology (C-V2X).
“Within the next few years, every stoplight and intersection could have a 5G or C-V2X communication unit — allowing them to send signals with minimal interference,” writes Don Butler, Ford Executive Director, Connected Vehicle and Services.
“Since this infrastructure is already being developed and built, we should take advantage of it and equip our vehicles with technology that enables them to communicate both in the here and now, as well as a decade from now.”
Ford also announced a cloud-based smart city platform, designed to facilitate communication between various transportation methods and services operating within them, including individual vehicle data.
Developed in partnership with Silicon Valley company Autonomic, the Transportation Mobility Cloud would “manage information flow and basic transactions between a variety of components in the transportation ecosystem — service providers, personal vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, mass transit systems and city infrastructure, including traffic lights and parking locations.”
For example it could facilitate re-routing cars to avoid congestion, improve commuting times or account for construction projects, sporting events and emergencies.
“This system is not exclusive to Ford or to personally owned vehicles — we’re building the Transportation Mobility Cloud for everyone, for the entire transportation operating system, including other automakers. We’re inviting others to join, reaching out to other automakers, suppliers and large-scale fleet operators to offer them an opportunity to participate in and shape this shared platform,” the company says.