Ford forms AI and robotics research team

As part of its drive toward autonomous vehicles and sustainable transport, Ford has set up a new Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) research team.

Ford’s Chief Technology Officer and VP of Research and Advanced Engineering Ken Washington, made the announcement in a blog earlier this week.

According to Washington, the team “will be dedicated to a greater focus on evaluating new sensor technologies, machine learning methods, technical requirements for entry into global markets, and development of personal mobility devices, drones and other aerial robotics to enhance first- and last-mile travel”.

Washington continued: “We’re doing all this because now that we have an established partnership with Argo AI to lead development of our virtual driver system — the computer platform, sensors and algorithms — for our first-generation self-driving vehicle program, we can put greater emphasis on other rapidly developing advancements in this space that will feed work in autonomous vehicle technology. Our robotics and artificial intelligence researchers will continue to collaborate with the Argo AI team so they can someday put this promising emerging technology to work in future generations of self-driving vehicles.

“Our research team already has a lot going on, so with Argo AI leading development of our virtual driver system for production self-driving vehicles — building off what we started — we can use the existing Ford virtual driver system for continued research without disrupting production work. The most recent example of that was demonstrated at Mcity, the University of Michigan test track that simulates an urban environment. We’ll be able to use our research vehicle fleet to experiment with emerging sensing technology and try out new ways to leverage deep learning techniques. This means you’ll likely see at least two separate fleets of self-driving vehicles on the road — one led by the Ford team, conducting advanced research, and another by Argo AI, developing and testing our virtual driver system for production.”

Ford’s new president and CEO Jim Hackett – who was confirmed in the post in May –  was previously the head of the company’s Smart Mobility Unit, so developments in autonomous and connected vehicles are very much on his radar.
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