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Ford commits to tripling autonomous vehicle investment

February 24, 2016  - By

Ford took center stage at the Mobile World Congress (MCW) for a series of announcements. CEO Mark Fields unveiled the new Kuga SUV and confirmed that Ford’s SYNC 3 connectivity technology is coming to Europe. SYNC 3 allows drivers to control audio, navigation, and climate functions plus connected smartphones using simple, conversational voice commands. MCW is being held Feb. 22-25 in Barcelona, Spain.

Fields also said Ford commits to tripling its engineering investment in semi-autonomous vehicle technologies as the company continues to expand its Ford Smart Mobility plan.

Fields discussed Ford’s transition from an automotive company to an auto and a mobility company through Ford Smart Mobility — the company’s plan to be a leader in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, customer experience, and data and analytics.

“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,” Fields said. “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 Kuga will offer several new technologies and updates, including Ford’s new SYNC 3 communications and entertainment system and innovative driver assistance technologies. The Kuga has hands-free perpendicular parking; an enhanced version of the Active City Stop collision avoidance system; an adaptive front lighting system; and intelligent all-wheel drive.

Ford’s drive toward a fully autonomous consumer car includes rolling out traffic jam assist and fully active park assist in the next three years.

Ford CEO discusses the company's move to fully autonomous vehicles at MWC.

Ford CEO Mark Fields discusses the company’s move to fully autonomous vehicles at MWC.

Traffic Jam Assist helps the driver with steering, braking and acceleration in heavily congested traffic situations on motorways. Fully Active Park Assist helps drivers by steering and controlling the transmission, throttle and brake to seamlessly pull into a parking spot at the touch of a button.

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. Ford has tested fully autonomous vehicles in winter weather, including snow.

“We are committed to making autonomous vehicles available for millions of people,” Washington said. “Within well-defined areas and with favorable environmental conditions, we predict that fully autonomous driving will be possible within four years, and that autonomous vehicles will play a significant role in making travel safer, more enjoyable, and more accessible.”