Ford will begin testing autonomous cars on European roads in 2017 as the next step in its pledge to make self-driving vehicles available to millions of people.
With its self-driving car development programme already up and running in the US, Ford is turning its attention to tackling the complex challenge of making an autonomous system work across European boundaries.
Ford’s ambition is to be a global leader in connectivity, mobility and autonomous vehicles. Earlier this year announced its intention to have a “high-volume, fully autonomous vehicle in commercial operation in 2021 in a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service”.
Ford expects that the car used for that service in five years' time will be capable of level four autonomy on the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) scale, which is classified as ‘high automation’ and is one step away from full autonomy.
Thomas Lukaszewicz, Ford of Europe’s autonomous driving manager, said: “We have already announced plans to use an autonomous vehicle for a ride-sharing service in the US in 2021 and it is important that we extend our testing to Europe.
“Rules of the road vary from country to country here, traffic signs and road layouts are different and drivers are likely to share congested roads with cyclists.”
During 2016 Ford has tripled the size of its autonomous test fleet of Fusion Hybrids on the roads of California, Arizona and Michigan and plans to triple it again in 2017. The manufacturer claims it has the most advanced self-driving test fleet of any car maker.
Ford has already claimed a number of firsts in self-driving car research, including being the first manufacturer to test autonomous vehicles in the snow and at night. In the US it has conducted extensive testing at Mcity, a 32-acre, full-scale simulated real-world urban environment at the University of Michigan.