By John Davis, Director of Autonomous Vehicle and Future Technology, Ford Motor Company
Back in 2018, Ford issued a comprehensive report to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) that outlined the way we approach self-driving vehicle development. A lot has changed in the years since, but our purpose has remained rock solid: to use autonomous technology to help make people’s lives better by providing a safe, trusted and affordable mobility solution.
Since we released that first safety report, we have continued bringing together all the complex pieces needed to launch a self-driving service. In addition to working with Argo AI to advance the development of a robust Automated Driving System to guide our vehicles on the road, we’ve continued to research and develop an exceptional customer experience, our fleet management capabilities, our behind-the-scenes transportation-as-a-service software and more.
To capture these developments and maintain our goal to be transparent, we’ve recently updated our voluntary safety self-assessment, A Matter of Trust 2.0 and shared it with the U.S. DOT. Here’s a sampling of the advancements we’ve made in the last two and a half years, which you can read about in detail in the report.
New launch markets: In addition to Miami, we’ve announced plans to launch our self-driving service in Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas. In all three of these cities, we’ve established robust testing and business operations, including terminals and command centers that will allow us to manage our fleet of vehicles as they transport people or deliver goods.
The great Escape: Our newest self-driving test vehicles are built on the Escape Hybrid platform, taking advantage of increased electrification capabilities and featuring the latest in sensing and computing technology. The Escape — with a modified exterior and interior designed to deliver a great customer experience — is also the type of vehicle we will initially launch our service with.
Expanded testing and pilots: Alongside testing in Miami, Austin and Washington, D.C., Argo AI continues to test the Automated Driving System in Detroit, MI; Pittsburgh, PA; and Palo Alto, CA — what may be the largest, most-diverse active urban-testing footprint of any self-driving vehicle developer in the U.S. We have also begun integrating our self-driving test vehicles directly into our business pilots, giving us real-world insights into what is required to run an efficient self-driving business.
Continued Collaboration with Cities: Every city has unique transportation needs, and we remain committed to continuing to work closely with the cities where we operate. We want to be a part of the city’s transportation system and provide a service that helps make people’s lives better. An example of our collaboration is our Ford-designed smart infrastructure in Miami. We worked closely at the city, county and state level to begin researching complex intersections. While our self-driving vehicles will be fully capable of safely navigating the streets on their own, we are looking at how we can provide self-driving vehicles with even more information before they approach busy or tricky intersections, giving them additional context about the activity ahead.
COVID impact: The global pandemic has had an effect on nearly everything we do, and our self-driving business is no exception. Now more than ever, people are looking for a safe and sanitary environment to interact with, and we’re working hard to help ensure the right processes are in place to meet that expectation whether customers are hailing a ride or receiving a delivery.
Argo AI Advancements: Our technology partner Argo recently published a safety assessment of its own, detailing how it is tackling the development of its self-driving system. Argo continues to make significant advances toward enabling commercialization — including the recently announced Argo Lidar sensor with sensing range capability of 400 meters. This new technology enables us to test our vehicles on highways and help connect vehicles to warehouses and suburban areas, expanding potential service areas for ride-hailing and goods deliveries.
The Argo team also continues to work closely with Ford’s engineering team. In fact, Ford’s self-driving vehicle systems have redundancies and are designed to be fail-functional. For instance, if there is a loss of operation in one system, the automated driving system can still bring the vehicle to a controlled stop using the redundant control or power system. These capabilities are not normally included in regular production vehicles sold to consumers.
As we’ve said before, the vehicle is just one part of a successful self-driving business. In addition to developing a safe, reliable business, we continue to collaborate closely with officials at the federal, state and local level to apply this potentially revolutionary technology in ways that help cities solve their mobility challenges and improve access to transportation for all.
It’s Still About Trust: Ford Updates Safety Assessment as It Nears Launch of Self-Driving Business was originally published in Self-Driven on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.