Ford is planning to start testing its self-driving cars in Europe next year, the automobile manufacturer told TechCrunch.
The news comes a few months after the company announced a 2021 target to mass produce fully autonomous vehicles that will be utilized for ride-sharing services.
European Tests For Ford Self-Driving Cars
According to the TechCrunch report, Ford will start the testing of its self-driving cars at its engineering center in Essex, United Kingdom, and in its research and advanced engineering facilities in Cologne and Aachen, Germany.
Ford said that it will be revealing more specific details of its planned testing in Europe soon. However, it noted that the facilities are knowledgeable of the current and upcoming initiatives of the company regarding driver assistance technology, which means that they are in a good position to also be in charge of the self-driving projects that Ford will launch in Europe.
"It is important that we extend our testing to Europe," said Ford Europe's manager for Automated Driving Thomas Lukaszewicz. This is because road regulations and rules change for each country in Europe, with different road layouts and traffic signs. The likelihood of cyclists traveling alongside cars is also higher in Europe.
Ford's Self-Driving Technology Plans
Currently, Ford has around 30 self-driving cars, though the company is planning to triple the fleet next year to around 100 vehicles.
Ford has made several investments into self-driving technology, with two recent ones being the $6.6 million investment that it made into 3D mapping startup Civil Maps and the joint $150 million investment with Chinese search company Baidu in Velodyne LiDAR.
These investments are part of the long-term plan of Ford to be able to get self-driving cars into mass production by 2021. In addition to these investments, Ford CEO Mark Fields said that the company will be doubling the size of its research team in Palo Alto, while also expanding its facilities in Silicon Valley by 150,000 square feet.
Ford European Survey On Self-Driving Cars
In relation to its planned testing of self-driving cars in Europe, Ford also commissioned a survey among Europeans on their opinions regarding the technology and the benefits that they see from utilizing it.
Among the 4,000 respondents, 16 percent said that they would trust self-driving cars to serve as the transportation of their children to and from school. The survey also found that 72 percent are planning to use the time freed up by riding self-driving cars for telephone conversations and 64 percent would use the time to eat while in transit.