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Ford Outlines AI & Autonomous Driving Plans

Dr. Ken Washington, Vice President of Ford Research Advanced Engineering and Chief Technology Officer at Ford announced the creation of the Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Research team as part of Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. The team will evaluate new sensors while Argo AI will develop Ford’s virtual driver system. There will be two different fleets in Michigan testing autonomous features.

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. Ford plans to be at the forefront in the field, this move aligns multiple disciplines under one team for a more concerted effort as we increasingly come to understand the potential for robotics and artificial intelligence. The move also serves to further advance projects we’ve already presented — such as our autonomous vehicle development program, and those we aren’t quite ready to reveal.

Ford established partnership with Argo AI to lead development of Ford’s virtual driver system — the computer platform, sensors and algorithms — for the 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. The 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.

Ford’s research team already has a lot going on, therefore with Argo AI leading development of its virtual driver system for production self-driving vehicles — building off what Ford started —Ford 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. Ford use it’sresearch vehicle fleet to experiment with emerging sensing technology and try out new ways to leverage deep learning techniques. This means area residents will probably 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.

The potential for autonomous vehicle technology to transform society means there’s heavy emphasis on its development, but automation and artificial intelligence can be applied in other ways as well. Ford is are already using robotics in manufacturing and logistics, and will evaluate further advancements in collaborative robots to assist in ergonomically difficult tasks. Artificial intelligence plays a big role as part of Ford’s Global Data and Analytic team’s support for sales, marketing and finance, so this team will look to further spread the technology to drive smarter decision making and more personalized experiences.

Ford’s new research team will continue the relationships it built with startup companies through partnerships, investments and acquisitions. The startup community is demonstrating tremendous opportunities for us with advanced sensors, deep learning, applied robotics and more. Deeply established partnerships with companies like Nirenberg Neuroscience, Civil Maps and SAIPS are already serving Ford with more advanced capabilities we’re considering for application in the future.

The research team will lead projects with universities working on robotics and artificial intelligence, including the University of Michigan, Stanford University, M.I.T., Virginia Tech, Purdue University, Texas A&M, Georgia Institute of Technology and others that we’re currently developing relationships with. Ford will work on the University of Michigan campus at the new Ford Motor Company Robotics Building. The professors and students at these universities represent the future, so it’s important for us to learn from them to continue being on the leading edge.