In what could be one of the most important automotive announcements of our generation, Ford have drawn a line in the sand to indicate their intention to produce a high-volume fully autonomous vehicle in 2021.

You won’t be able to buy one for yourself though, Ford is creating the vehicle specifically for ride-sharing and ride-hailing services.

We’ve got Tesla pushing ahead with Autopilot, Volvo and other older brands doing their research, but it’s very rare to hear a date announced with such gusto.

Forming part of Ford’s global “Smart Mobility” program, the company wants nothing more than to be a leader in this area.

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To get there, they’re working with four startups on the development and investing in their own Palo Alto campus to double its team.

Whether or not this is a front-foot plan to get ahead of Tesla and perhaps Apple in the race for the car of the future, Ford are series.

CEO Mark Fields said “We’re dedicated to putting on the road an autonomous vehicle that can improve safety and solve social and environmental challenges for
millions of people – not just those who can afford luxury vehicles.”

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And we’re not talking about a fancy cruise control or navigation here. Ford are stating this vehicle will be a “level 4 capable vehicle” without a steering wheel or accelerator and brake pedals.

Ford want’s Uber and Lyft to pick up the phone and start placing orders – this could mean nothing else.

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To get toward this goal, Ford are investing and collaborating with four companies as outlined in their announcement:

Velodyne: Ford has invested in Velodyne, the Silicon Valley-based leader in light detection
and ranging (LiDAR) sensors. The aim is to quickly mass-produce a more affordable
automotive LiDAR sensor. Ford has a longstanding relationship with Velodyne, and was
among the first to use LiDAR for both high-resolution mapping and autonomous driving
beginning more than 10 years ago

SAIPS: Ford has acquired the Israel-based computer vision and machine learning company
to further strengthen its expertise in artificial intelligence and enhance computer vision.
SAIPS has developed algorithmic solutions in image and video processing, deep learning,
signal processing and classification. This expertise will help Ford autonomous vehicles learn
and adapt to the surroundings of their environment

Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC: Ford has an exclusive licensing agreement with Nirenberg
Neuroscience, a machine vision company founded by neuroscientist Dr. Sheila Nirenberg,
who cracked the neural code the eye uses to transmit visual information to the brain. This
has led to a powerful machine vision platform for performing navigation, object recognition,
facial recognition and other functions, with many potential applications. For example, it is
already being applied by Dr. Nirenberg to develop a device for restoring sight to patients
with degenerative diseases of the retina. Ford’s partnership with Nirenberg Neuroscience
will help bring humanlike intelligence to the machine learning modules of its autonomous
vehicle virtual driver system

Civil Maps: Ford has invested in Berkeley, California-based Civil Maps to further develop
high-resolution 3D mapping capabilities. Civil Maps has pioneered an innovative 3D
mapping technique that is scalable and more efficient than existing processes. This provides
Ford another way to develop high-resolution 3D maps of autonomous vehicle environments
Silicon Valley expansion

So, take that everyone else – your move Elon.