Ford’s presence in Silicon Valley was established back in 2012 with nothing more than a 15-person office, and just last January, Ford expanded that into a research facility with a team of more than 100 people. In that new facility, researchers, engineers and scientists have been working on automotive advancements like Camera-based pedestrian detection, sensor fusion, and other autonomous-driving technology – supporting Fords Smart Mobility plan.

Ford’s integration of its new research facility isn’t the only thing the automaker has achieved this year. Just this week, Ford announced that it has secured a permit to begin testing fully autonomous vehicles on public roads. The permit is limited to the Ford Fusion Hybrid, and Ford will be free to begin testing the Fusion’s autonomous capabilities on public roads in 2016. Ford has yet to release information on exactly when it will begin testing, but given how seriously it is taking the advancement of autonomous vehicles, connectivity and mobility, it’s a safe bet they’ll starting popping up on Cali roads sooner than later.

Obtaining the testing permit is a huge step in Ford’s Smart Mobility plan, and it was made possible by the team it has compiled in what is now the one of the largest automotive manufacturer research facilities in the region. Mark Fields, Ford’s CEO and President, said, “Our Palo Alto team has grown significantly this year, using research and innovation to explore and develop future mobility solutions,” he continued, “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.”

Continue reading for the full story.

Why it matters

Ford Begins Testing Autonomous Vehicles On California Roads
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Needless to say, Ford isn’t playing around when it comes to its Smart Mobility Plan. Granted, Ford isn’t the first automaker to test autonomous vehicles – not by a long shot. Other manufacturers on the list include Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Nissan, BMW, and Honda. Other companies include Google (obviously), Delphi Automotive, and Cruise Automation. This can lead us to two different conclusions. The first being that there is potentially a lot of self-driving cars out there, obviously performing quite well so far. The second, and probably most important, is that our society is making clear advances in technology and the way we travel – be it short or long distances – will be changing in the years to come. Ten years from now, taking a trip to the store or your cousin’s house across the country just might be a completely different experience compared to what we’re currently accustomed to. Who knows, at this rate we just might see the idea of mainstream flying cars become a reality in the future.

Ford Fusion Hybrid

2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the Ford Fusion Hybrid here.

Press Release

Fully autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid sedans are taking to California streets next year, as Ford Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto continues growing.

Ford Begins Testing Autonomous Vehicles On California Roads
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Ford is officially enrolled in the California Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program to test autonomous vehicles on public roads. The testing is further advancement of Ford’s 10-year autonomous vehicle development program and a key element of Ford Smart Mobility, the plan to take the company to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics.

Ford Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto is one of the largest automotive manufacturer research centers in the region, with a team of more than 100 researchers, engineers and scientists. The new research lab opened in January, expanding Ford’s presence in Silicon Valley, which dates back to 2012.

Eighty percent of the Palo Alto team joined Ford from the technology sector. The remaining 20 percent are Ford employees from the United States, China, Germany and Australia who bring automotive engineering and design expertise.

“Our Palo Alto team has grown significantly this year, using research and innovation to explore and develop future mobility solutions,” said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO. “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.”

Advanced experimentation

Ford Begins Testing Autonomous Vehicles On California Roads
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Ford has expanded its Silicon Valley facility from a 15-person office to a 100-plus-person research and development center. Research the lab has conducted this past year includes:

• Autonomous vehicle virtual test drive: This study allows virtual interaction between an autonomous car and pedestrians, replicating real-world situations to better understand and develop responses to some of the unexpected things that can happen on the road

Sensor fusion: Sensors on autonomous vehicles detect and track objects in the vehicle’s view, fusing information together to provide a 360-degree view of the car’s surroundings – including street signs, other vehicles, even pedestrians

Camera-basedpedestriandetection:Camerasensorsserve as the eyes of a vehicle, allowing the car to “see” and sense pedestrians

Data-driven health care: Through data collection from Ranger pickups and motorcycles outfitted with OpenXC technology, Ford is working with Riders for Health to collect GPS data and mapping coordinates to make health care, vaccines and medication delivery to people throughout rural Africa more efficient and accessible

Ford has cultivated relationships with top universities this year, including University of California-Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University, Santa Clara and San Jose State. The company is further expanding its strategic research collaboration with Stanford in 2016, planning 13 projects covering all five areas of Ford Smart Mobility – more than double the number of collaborations this year.

“Having a strong presence in Silicon Valley allows us to further accelerate our research on a wide range of technologies, and apply our insights to create real-world mobility solutions,” said Ken Washington, Ford vice president, Research and Advanced Engineering.

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