Ford Motor Co. has decided to jump head first into the self-driving car craze that is sweeping through automakers who want to be the first to come out with the perfect autonomous vehicle. From Tesla to Honda, automakers are doing all they can to further develop their autonomous technology that will one day soon be the future of driving.
Ford recently announced that it will be investing over $1 billion into its future self-driving car. That amount, the company noted, will span out over five years toward the development of start-up technology for autonomous vehicles which has been given the name, Argo AI.
Brian Salesky, who was a Google car veteran no too long ago, and Uber engineer Peter Rander co-founded Argo AI. Salesky left Google’s car program which it renamed Waymo just last fall. When asked why he wanted to start a company with Rander, who he meet at Carnegie Mellon University, Salesky said it was due to the fact that there are “incredible advancements in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and computer vision, but we just needed a partner to get these cars into the hands of millions of people.”
And Ford was more than happy to be that partner. In fact, this type of early stage investment not only shows Ford’s eagerness for automakers and technology companies to join forces in order to provide autonomous cars that will be used every day by consumers.
Ford CEO Mark Fields told a source that, “The reason for the investment is not only to drive the delivery of our own autonomous vehicle by 2021 but also to deliver value to our shareholders by creating a software platform that can be licensed to others.”
Ford joins the ranks with those like Uber who signed a $300 million partnership with Volvo in the development and testing of its version of a fully autonomous vehicle. Even Fiat, who has partnered with Waymo, is working to produce a self-driving Pacifica hybrid minivan. Waymo also announced that in the near future it hopes to sell its technology to other automakers.
Self-driving cars aren’t just something that’s becoming popular in the United States. China’s automaker Baidu had hopes of jumping on the self-driving bandwagon by partnering up with BMW, yet the deal fell through due to differences in the course of the project’s final outcome.
Yet here on the home front, Ford will be busy attempting to figure out what exactly makes the brain of a fully autonomous car tick. The process involves computer algorithms that will have to process data that comes from a series of sensors for things like radars and cameras.
The Detroit automaker already has engineers that are working in this area yet will join forces with Argo AI. Argo AI also says that it has plans to hire at least 200 new engineers by the end of this year.
However, the path to technological innovation has a few pot holes. As many automakers begin to test out their inventions, more regulations for autonomous vehicles stand in the way.
Last year’s Department of Transportation chief Anthony Foxx along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) composed guidelines that would form a set of rules for driving autonomous cars.
Uber ran into problems when testing its autonomous vehicle in California some time ago. The company was told by the Department of Motor Vehicles that since its vehicle was not properly registered it would be able to test it out on the roads. Uber says that since the incident it’s currently working with the DMV to sort out the matter.
Michigan launched its own self-driving test as well. Back in December, the governor signed a proposal that would allow auto and tech companies to test their autonomous vehicles which would be without a steering wheel, human driver, or pedals. Michigan’s proposal is a complete opposite of California’s which only allows autonomous testing if a human is present in the vehicle.
Elaine Chao, who is the new Department of Transportation chief, hasn’t expressed her feelings on the guidelines for autonomous vehicles just yet. However, Ford’s CEO Mark Fields recently met with President Trump along with other automakers and seems more than enthusiastic about the future instore for the set standards of autonomous vehicles.
He commented that the “NHTSA understands the economic, social and safety benefits of AV (autonomous vehicles). Our approach is to make sure we develop one national standard, not 50 states with 50 sets of rules.”