Ford is tripling the size of its autonomous test-car fleet, the company said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Tuesday,
That means it will have more self-driving cars under development than any other car maker.
At CES, Ford CEO Mark Fields contrasted Ford’s efforts with those of more attention-getting self-driving plays, from niche automakers such as Tesla.
“When the first Ford autonomous vehicle comes out, it will not be just for the folks who can afford luxury cars,” Fields said. “It will be an autonomous vehicle designed to serve millions of customers.”
In 2016, Ford expects to have 30 self-driving cars undergoing testing in California, Arizona, and Michigan, the company said. And Ford wants to get its first fully autonomous vehicle on public roads in California this year.
Ford’s tapping a very sophisticated and expensive self-driving technology, called LiDAR, for its self-driving cars. It employs compact lasers and is manufactured by Velodyne, which has dubbed it the “PUCK” system due to its resemblance to a hockey puck.
“Ford was among the first to use the Velodyne LiDAR sensor, an innovation that significantly changed the autonomous vehicle landscape,” the company said. The technology enables the autonomous vehicle to create a real-time 3D map of its surroundings.
The company said it’s also looking to alternatives to car ownership, something that sounds similar to a deal announced on Monday between GM and car-hailing app Lyft.
“We will continue to work with others not just in vehicles for retail customers, but also on autonomous vehicles to provide transportation as a service,” Fields said at CES. “And that includes customers who might not have a vehicle in the future, such as the young, the elderly or those looking for an alternative to mass transit.”
The Blue Oval isn’t quite ready to give up on the F-150 pickup, which should once again finish 2015 as the best-selling vehicle in the US. But it doesn’t plan to be left behind on how we move around in the future.
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