As part of Ford Motor Co.’s quest to accelerate autonomous vehicle development, the automaker will embed some of its researchers and engineers into a robotics laboratory that’s expected to open on the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus in 2020.
Additionally, Ford will move a dozen researchers into the university’s North Campus Research Complex by the end of this year.
“Ford engineers and researchers will begin working shoulder-to-shoulder with U-M faculty and students to test and learn about autonomous vehicle technology and innovation,” said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO. “We are aiming to show the world what we can achieve when leaders in business and academia work together to make people’s lives better.”
This new collaboration is the latest in a series of actions intended to move Ford closer to having a fully autonomous vehicle available for high-volume commercial use in 2021.
Ten years into the Ford-University of Michigan Innovation Alliance, the two parties have agreed that Ford will lease the fourth floor of the new robotics laboratory. It is an approximately 140,000-square-foot building on Hayward Street, east of the university’s Space Research Building.
The planned robotics laboratory will have space where machines walk, fly, drive, and swim. The building will house labs, offices, and classrooms. The facility will continue a tradition of robotics leadership at U-M that includes the creation of MABEL, the world’s fastest-running robot with knees.
By locating a team of more than 100 employees on campus, Ford benefits from being close to technical leaders as well as facilities, such as Mcity – an urban simulation test environment in Ann Arbor, Ford said.
Ford has been testing autonomous vehicles for more than 10 years. Last fall, the company became the first automaker to begin testing at Mcity. Ford is also tripling its fleet of autonomous research vehicles this year.