Self-Driving 2016 Ford Fusion Ready To Hit California Roads For Testing Next Year


Ford has set up shop in the apparent incubator for driverless cars: California. Ford has already been testing an autonomous version of the Fusion hybrid in Palo Alto, California, but now it's ready to unleash a fleet of them in the Golden State.

The Detroit-based automaker has enrolled in the California Autonomous Vehicle Testing Program in order to take its autonomous vehicle experiments to public roads. Testing is just another step in the company's decade-long plan to develop autonomous vehicles, Ford Smart Mobility.

Ford has been building out its Palo Alto research team to explore and cultivate "future mobility solutions," according to Ford's president and CEO Mark Fields.

"We're attracting top talent from around the world to join our team in Silicon Valley, including employees from local technology companies and universities who want to make people's lives better by changing the way the world moves," says Fields.

Ford recruited about 80 percent of its Palo Alto team from the technology sector, the company says. And it's grown from a crew of 15 to a staff of over 100.

For 2015, the company's Silicon Valley team worked on virtual test drives for its autonomous car technology. It also developed sensor fusion, which fuses input into a 360-degree view of a car's surroundings, and a pedestrian detection software which leverages cameras to sense pedestrians.

The automaker has also worked with Riders for Health on mapping out remote areas of Africa by using Ford Ranger pickup trucks fitted with GPS receivers. Next year, Ford's Palo Alto unit expects to take on 13 experiments as works to jump out in front of this driverless car curve.

Ford's goal is like all of the other automakers working with driverless cars. It wants to develop and release a driverless car that requires no human input, according to Ford's James McBride, founder of the automaker's autonomous vehicle program.

"We've always taken the approach that we want the car to be able to handle any scenario a human would, and not suddenly throw the driving back into the lap of the driver [in the event of an emergency]," said McBride.

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