Ford is shifting its self-driving vehicle program into high gear. The automaker announced December 15, 2015, that it will start testing the autonomous vehicles on California roads in January of 2016. Ford says it has already received permits from the state to start driving its Fusion Hybrid test car on public roads.
The prototype which is packed with sensors and cameras will be driven on the roads around the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto. The new research lab opened in January of 2015 and has a team of 100 researchers, engineers and scientists.
Ford President and CEO Mark Fields says in a statement, “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.”
Ford joins a few other companies in enrolling in the California Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program. Google has been testing vehicles along with Mercedes-Benz. The primary concern is safety and how the self-driving cars react with other vehicles on the road.
California is proposing tough new regulations on the autonomous self-driving vehicles. California wants a qualified, alert driver behind the wheel at all times. Some of Google’s vehicles have pioneered models that don’t even have steering wheels.
Ford is already testing its self-driving Fusion Hybrid in a simulated city. Ford is the first automaker to start testing at Mcity, a 32-acre simulated city built as a test track outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Ford considers the self-driving technology a key element of the Ford Smart Mobility plan. Ford is experimenting with all phases of connectivity and mobility. It is looking at the importance of e-bikes, motorcycles, and mass transit and how they all interact with vehicles, all over the globe.