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Ford’s Hybrids May Soon Drive Themselves

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Ford will be testing self-driving hybrids come 2016.Perhaps sooner than you think, your car will be driving itself. Hot on the heels of last week’s announcement that Ford would fund electric vehicle product expansion via a multi-billion dollar investment, the carmaker revealed its ambitions regarding driverless cars. Ford autonomous hybrid vehicles are definitely in the future.

At Ford’s Research & Innovation Center, situated in Palo Alto, CEO Mark Fields stated their intentions by placing a California license plate on a Ford autonomous hybrid vehicle, the Focus. Vehicle trials are set to begin next year.

The Research & Innovation Center, which will be leading the project, has only been in existence for a year, but has already filed for over 50 patents and announced over 100 invention disclosures. The center is home to 125 researchers, engineers, and scientists.

Local universities and startups have been working together with the center, developing driving algorithms, virtual testing systems, sensor technology, and object and pedestrian detection technology. Examples of this technology include headlights that automatically shine on pedestrians and animals when detected. This has already been released as a preview by the manufacturer, but is not available in market just yet.

Ken Washington, VP of Research and Advanced Engineering, noted that the company expects a fully autonomous self-driving car within the next four years. Autonomous vehicles have already been in the works with Ford for over 10 years. This announcement heralds the progress of the program from research to engineering.

Ford has also received an autonomous driving permit, allowing it to do street testing. California has also granted permits to 11 other companies, including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Nissan, Honda, Volkswagen, Tesla and Google.

It is unclear at this time what vehicles will be used to develop this technology, but with more investment in electric vehicles, it may not be so farfetched to think there will be more than one Ford autonomous hybrid vehicle in the future.

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