Lyft has teamed up with Ford to help the car manufacturer perfect its driverless car technology. It will use Lyft’s open-source ride hailing platform to build a more profitable and viable self-driving car business.
Ford will deploy its self-deriving cars to pick up passengers using the Lyft app, it explained, although it hasn’t applied a timeframe to the company’s plans, simply saying it’s going to happen in the future.
“Lyft has a network of customers, growing demand for rides and strong knowledge of transportation flow within cities,” Ford’s vice president for autonomous and electric vehicles Sherif Marakby wrote in a blog post.
“We have experience with autonomous vehicle technology development and large-scale manufacturing. Both companies have fleet management and big data experience. With our combined capabilities, we believe we can effectively share information to help make the best decisions for the future.”
The companies’ plans don’t just stop at sharing Lyft’s platform and Ford’s cars. They also want to work together on more research into making autonomous cars a more accepted form of transportation. Like most of the automotive industry, they’re hoping they can make attitudes more positive towards driverless cars.
Mondeo will be one of Ford’s autonomous car models
Ford has revealed its Mondeo and Fusion autonomous car models will play a big part in the UK driverless car consortium Driven’s car trials in Oxford. The car will be an integral part of the UK government’s trials, which will also include a Range Rover Evoque.
In total, six cars will be patrolling the streets of Oxford, using Oxobotica’s Selenium autonomous car tech to gauge the public’s response to driverless cars and test the software, checking that it’s safe enough to use on the UK’s roads.
“While local residents around our Oxford office will have had a few sneak previews of our first vehicle, now everyone can see our Range Rover Evoque, Ford Mondeo and Ford Fusion as they will appear early next year in self-driving mode on public roads around Oxford and then along the Oxford to London corridor,” said Oxbotica chief exec Graeme Smith.
Both of Ford’s autonomous cars will have a human at the wheel, as they’re part of level 4 testing, which stipulates someone must be available should there be any problems while cruising the streets.
“High-visibility branding of the test vehicles is a good thing, as they move from extensive off-road trials to streets where they’ll be mixing with everyday traffic, so that we know not to panic when we see one approaching with no one holding the steering wheel,” Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, added.
22/08/2017: Ford removes steering wheels in driverless cars of the future
Ford taken a step forward in its plans to make autonomous vehicles after it was awarded a patent for a vehicle with fully removable foot pedals and steering wheel.
Ford said that removing the steering wheel, that can be re-added if it’s needed for a task like car testing, may be an extra option in future.
The firm said in the patent: “[The removable wheel] will make the easy provision of a steering wheel as a client requested option possible.”
An airbag will replace the steering wheel in cars without one, to ensure the passenger sitting in the driver’s seat is well-protected in an event of a collision.
Unlike other manufacturers that are creating cars with the option of taking over the controls or being completely autonomous, Ford wants to offer vehicles that don’t need any human interaction at all and by removing the steering wheel, the driver won’t be able to control the car at all.
Ford believes that removing the driver completely will make for a safer autonomous car experience.
The company isn’t expecting to make too much profit from driverless cars until 2021. At the beginning of this year, the firm said that it will produce the required software for a new generation of autonomous cars by investing a $1bn (£800m) investment in AI developer Argo AI.
03/03/2017: Ford’s driverless vehicles could actually be delivery trucks
Ford is apparently going to launch driverless trucks that will deliver goods autonomously. They have been created to make it more efficient for logistics firms to get goods to customers, the company said at Mobile World Congress.
Ford’s Autolivery concept will mean anyone can order goods online and have them delivered directly to their door, whether they live in a hard to reach place or need their goods faster than regular retailers can get to them by road.
“It’s all about making life in the city easier,” said Ford designer Euishik Bang. “The possibility of harnessing autonomous and electric vehicle technology with drones to quickly and easily send and deliver parcels could help to make life better for everyone.”
The company is predicting more companies will turn to using autonomous technologies to make the delivery process and faster for individuals.
“Widely considered the most challenging part of the goods delivery process to automate, many companies are working on how to solve the complexity of delivering packages the last 15 metres, or from kerb to door,” Ford told the Independent. “The pressure to solve this challenge is expected to increase globally in coming years with GDP growth and a rise in local deliveries due to online sales.”
We revealed earlier this week that UPS is testing a similar technology that would see drones taking off from the top of customised lorries to make deliveries autonomously and then return to the lorry, with an arm putting the drone back in the vehicle for recharging.
Ford wants its delivery vehicles on the roads by 2021, although it hasn’t said yet when it will carry out live trials – it’s only a virtual reality concept at the moment.
14/02/2017: Ford is investing $1bn in driverless car division Argo
Ford has announced it’s going to invest $1bn in car tech division Argo, a company led by engineers from Uber and Google.
Argo will be completely owned and fully funded by Ford, meaning it can use all of its innovations in its autonomous car efforts, without paying a separate software company.
However, it will run just like a startup, throwing ideas into the ring without fear of rejection. It will also be able to scale fast, hoping to have 200 employees by the end of this year.
The division will have its HQ in Pittsburgh, although there will be two other offices in Michigan and Silicon Valley. Its vision will be to develop self-driving technology for Ford exclusively, but in the future, it may look at licensing its software to other companies too.
Ex-Google employee Bryan Salesky will head up Argo and chief executive, while Uber’s Peter Rander will join him on the board. Rander was active in developing Uber’s self-driving car project, while Salesky led hardware development at Google’s self-driving cars arm for three years.
“Autonomous vehicles will have a significant impact on society just as Ford’s assembly line did a hundred years ago,” said Mark Fields, chief executive of Ford told the FT. “With Argo’s agility and its scale, we are combining the benefits of a technology start-up with the experience and discipline we have at Ford.”
29/12/2016: Ford’s self-driving car would be used as a taxi
Ford’s self-driving car fleet will be ready for testing in 2017 ahead of its launch in 2021, the company has revealed.
But Ford doesn’t plan to just sell its self-driving cars. It wants to use them as a fleet of taxis, going up against the likes of Uber.
Up to 90 cars will be hitting the roads in 2017, three times the size of its existing range, demonstrating the car manufacturer’s enthusiasm to get the idea off the ground.
Ford doesn’t want to do things by halves either. It explained it wants to go down the fully-autonomous route, removing steering wheels and pedals. In fact, it has even applied for the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) Level Four autonomy specification.
The cars Ford will use as its autonomous taxis will be Ford Fusion Hybrids, integrating two lidar sensors that can travel the length of two football pitches to survey what’s going on almost 250m away.
19/08/2016: Ford said it will launch its self-driving car in 2021 – and it won’t even feature a steering wheel.
The company’s president announced the car at an event in Palo Alto, saying it had invested in a research facility in the area to specifically help it develop and test its autonomous vehicle.
However, the cars won’t necessarily be available to buy. Customers will be able to use an on-demand service, which will be similar to Uber, only hiring the car when they need one. It will be available in towns and cities, which will obviously mean stringent testing will need to be completely to prevent any disasters on clogged roads.
Ford said the move will help transform the company into a service-led company, rather than relying on its direct to customer sales stream.
“There will be a growing per cent of the industry that will be fully autonomous vehicles,” Ford’s president Mark Fields told the BBC. “Our goal is not only to be an auto company, but an auto and mobility company.”
The cars will not have any human controls at all, meaning people using the car could sit back and relax, or work, or do whatever they like while the car gets them to their destination.
“As you can imagine, the experience inside a vehicle where you don’t have to take control changes everything,” Fields added. “Whether you want to do work, whether you want entertainment… those are the types of things we are thinking about as we design the experience for this type of autonomous vehicle.”
Ford has always been a market leader when it comes to autonomous technologies, although Google’s autonomous car testing started a lot earlier than the car manufacturer’s. Ford is actively working to develop sensor technology too and invested $150m alongside Chinese firm Baidu to research further into the LiDAR object avoidance system.
Ford has revealed the latest version of its automated cars ahead of CES in Las Vegas this week. The car’s outer has been tweaked to make it a little less ridiculous looking (goodbye Mickey Mouse ears), adding features such as embedded sensors inside the roof rack.
The new version of Ford’s self-driving Fusion Hybrid doesn’t really look any different to the standard Ford Fusion Hybrid, making it more attractive to those who don’t like the outside of their cars messed about with.
However, hidden below the standard design are cameras, lasers and radars to further boost the cars’ abilities for autonomously navigating around cities.
Although the software controlling the Ford autonomous cars hasn’t changed much, it can now process more sophisticated information faster, making it more responsive than previous iterations. All of these changes are part of the company’s plans to leverage its cars to an SAE level 4-capable vehicle, which means it can handle all aspects of self-driving without any input from a human.