With the unveiling of its latest autonomous test vehicle, Ford believes it’s one step closer to offering a commercial self-driving car service (via NBC News). In a new Medium post, the automaker detailed its fourth-generation autonomous test vehicle, claiming in the process that it includes all the technologies the company needs for commercialization.
“With our fourth-generation test vehicle, we have everything we need from a vehicle to stand up our self-driving service,” the company said. “We’re confident that we’re on the path to launching a safe, reliable and affordable service. And, we look forward to telling you more about how this service will ultimately help make people’s lives better.”
As for the vehicle itself, it builds on the company’s Escape SUV, instead of the Fusion sedan Ford had used for its previous generation testbeds. New to the fourth-generation model is a high-resolution LiDAR sensor that helps give the vehicle a 360-degree view of its surroundings. It also includes a new suite of cameras and LiDAR sensors to aid with spotting vehicles and cyclists that enter into its blind spots.
Ford plans to start field testing the vehicle this month in Austin, Detroit, Miami, Palo Alto, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. The new model will join its fleet of approximately 100 existing test vehicles.
Ford’s announcement comes during what’s been a busy month for companies in the autonomous vehicle space. On October 15th, GM’s Cruise subsidiary said it would start testing fully driverless cars on the streets of San Francisco later this year. One week earlier, Waymo announced it was beginning to open its Waymo One service to the broader Phoenix population. Provided the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t force additional delays, Ford plans to launch its self-driving taxi service in 2022.