Ford will put around 30 self-driving test cars on public roads as part of the third phase of its autonomous testing programme
5 January 2016

Ford is tripling its autonomous vehicle testing fleet as it surges ahead with the development of self-driving cars.

The new fleet of autonomous cars is based on the US-market Mondeo Hybrid. In total, around 30 vehicles will begin real-world testing in California, Arizona and Michigan.

The expansion of the autonomous testing programme is described as being a key part of Ford’s Smart Mobility plan. This will be the third autonomous testing scheme Ford has undertaken, having already taken part in first-generation autonomous tests in 2005 and 2007, before launching small-scale second-generation tests with the Mondeo Hybrid in 2013.

All of Ford’s autonomous vehicle tests have been conducted using LiDAR sensors, created by supplier Velodyne. The newest generation of sensor, which will be fitted to the newly expanded test fleet, has a range of more than 200 metres and is capable of handling multiple driving scenarios. Whereas previous test vehicles featured four sensors in total, the new cars will have only two smaller sensors in place.

Ford’s global product development boss Raj Nair said: “Using the most advanced technology and expanding our test fleet are clear signs of our commitment to making autonomous vehicles available for millions of people.

“With more autonomous vehicles on the road, we are accelerating the development of software algorithms that serve to make our vehicles even smarter.”

As part of the CES show in Las Vegas, Ford also revealed it is working with the United Nations to develop a vehicular platform for drone launches. The new platform, which would feature drones launching from an F-150 pick-up truck base before being used to survey disaster zones, would allow the drone to communicate with the car in real time.

The drone would be able to return to the car, even if the car has moved.

Ford also revealed that it is working with Amazon’s new Echo smart speaker to allow users to start their cars using voice activation through the device.

Speaking at the CES show, Ford boss Mark Fields said his company was keeping “one foot in today, and one foot in tomorrow”, and that Ford would look to “understand what the world is going to look like five, 10 even 15 years from now.”

Fields said Ford would begin to transition over the next year to become more of a technology company than a traditional car manufacturer, as the firm looks to move more into the mobility and transportation sector - which includes app development and taxi services.

Read more CES news

Our Verdict

Ford Mondeo Titanium 180PS

The new Ford Mondeo majors on space, equipment and value - with a little less dynamic verve than we're used to

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    26 July 2016
    An expensive but entertaining, intriguing and very usable road-going track car whose rarity may eventually underwrite its high price
  • First Drive
    26 July 2016
    French fashion brand Givenchy has come together with DS for a special edition DS 3. Is it now any closer to the class leaders?
  • 2016 Audi Q7 e-tron
    First Drive
    26 July 2016
    Plug-in hybrid Q7 promises economy of 156.9mpg and BIK rates of 10%. It’ll take you a while to recoup the £10k premium over a standard Q7, though
  • MG GS Exclusive DCT
    First Drive
    22 July 2016
    MG's crossover in self-shifting, top-spec form has limited appeal at this price
  • Lexus GS450h F Sport
    First Drive
    22 July 2016
    The Lexus GS450h might offer plenty of pace and reasonable running costs on paper, but diesel alternatives make more sense