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Ford Triples Self-Driving Technology Investment

February 23, 2016

Photo of Kuga SUV courtesy of Ford.
Photo of Kuga SUV courtesy of Ford.

Ford plans to triple its engineering investment in semi-autonomous vehicle technology as part of its expansion of the Ford Smart Mobility plan, the automaker announced as it unveiled a new Kuga SUV with semi-autonomous features at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Ford will also bring its SYNC 3 connectivity technology is coming to Europe.

“As we look to the future, it is clear we are on the cusp of a revolution in mobility – from car sharing to autonomous driving to the customer experience,” said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO. “Technology and innovation provide us with the opportunity to address these trends and to make people’s lives better by changing the way the world moves.”

The new Kuga will offer technologies and updates to make driving simpler, safer, more enjoyable and more affordable. These include Ford’s new SYNC 3 communications and entertainment system, innovative driver assistance technologies, an ergonomic and comfortable interior and a new 120 PS 1.5L TDCi diesel engine.

The Kuga will offer Ford’s Perpendicular Parking technology that helps drivers park hands free in spaces alongside other cars; an enhanced version of the Active City Stop collision avoidance system; and Ford’s Adaptive Front Lighting System for optimized visibility in low light. Further sophisticated technologies include Hands-Free Liftgate and Ford Intelligent All Wheel Drive, according to the automaker.

Ford said it is tripling its driver assist technology engineering investment to make it easier to drive in heavy traffic and park, while developing fully autonomous vehicles for the future. The significant increase in investment announced today will enable Ford to research and develop driver assist technology that transfer more driving tasks to the vehicle and provide more comfort and safety to the driver.

These will include Traffic Jam Assist and Fully Active Park Assist that Fields announced Ford will roll out in the next three years.

Ford said it is taking two distinct pathways toward vehicle automation. First, the company has a dedicated team developing driver assist technology that is focused on delivering increasing levels of automation.

Traffic Jam Assist helps the driver with steering, braking and acceleration in heavily congested traffic situations on motorways. Easily activated by pushing a button, the system helps keep the vehicle centred in the lane and brakes and accelerates to keep pace with the vehicle in front.

Fully Active Park Assist will help drivers by steering and controlling the transmission, throttle and brake to seamlessly pull into a parking spot at the touch of a button, according to the automaker.

Further semi-autonomous technologies already introduced by Ford include Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, a camera- and radar-based system that detects vehicles and people in the road ahead; and Intelligent Speed Limiter, which could help prevent drivers from exceeding speed limits, and potentially from incurring costly speeding penalties..

Ford is seeking to deliver autonomous capability that does not require driver input described by the SAE International as Level 4 of automation. At this level of capability, autonomous vehicles will likely be offered first in climates that support optimal sensor performance and in areas that have been mapped in high resolution 3D.

FordPass features four elements. A Marketplace offering access to mobility services and partners; trusted and knowledgeable FordGuides who are always there to help members to resolve mobility challenges; appreciation, where members are recognized for their loyalty; and FordHubs, where consumers can experience new innovations. Through FordPass owners will be able to manage their vehicle, including scheduling maintenance services.

As part of Ford Smart Mobility, the company is working to expand the range of car-sharing and parking services offered in European cities and towns.

In London, with its new GoPark pilot, Ford is building a predictive parking system – capable of directing drivers to streets where they’re most likely to find a space. A group of residents from the borough of Islington have volunteered to take part – with their cars being equipped with plug-in devices to give live data for traffic and parking conditions. The pilot includes both Ford and non-Ford vehicles, according to the automaker.

Also in London, Ford’s on-demand GoDrive car-sharing pilot is now trialing on-street parking on certain streets. Since launching last year, the service has expanded to 25 hubs across the city, each with guaranteed parking, at locations that include London Waterloo railway station and London City Airport, according to the automaker.

In Germany, bookings for Ford Carsharing, designed to serve small and medium sized cities, as well as large towns, were up by 76% in 2015, with customers already driving more than 1 million kilometers in total during the year. The service is offered by Ford Germany and their dealers with 170 Ford Carsharing stations all over Germany, according to the automaker.

Ford also demonstrated for the first time in Europe its new SYNC 3 communications and entertainment system on the Kuga. SYNC 3 allows drivers to control audio, navigation, and climate functions plus connected smartphones using simple, conversational voice commands.

The company announced new apps for the system, which can be voice-activated using SYNC AppLink, including enabling drivers to earn money by transporting packages. The MyBoxMan.

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