The US-based automaker Ford Motor plans to launch its self-driving commercial business with vehicles based on the Ford Escape Hybrid crossover in 2022, the company said.
In partnership with Argo AI, an American autonomous vehicle start-up, the vehicles will be the fourth-generation self-driving test vehicles of the automaker. Earlier this year, Ford and German automaker Volkswagen had split an 80 percent majority stake in Argo AI.
Along with its existing fleet of approximately 100 autonomous test vehicles based on the Fusion Hybrid sedan, which the company is no longer manufacturing, Ford said the vehicles will begin to be tested this month.
According to John Davis, chief engineer of the autonomous vehicle subsidiary of Ford, the next-generation vehicles include ‘launch-intent’ technologies that are required to enable commercialization.
“With our fourth-generation test vehicle, we have everything we need from a vehicle to stand up our self-driving service,” Mr. Davis said.
Higher resolution cameras, more capable radar sensors and more sophisticated Lidar technology which uses lasers to map surrounding areas, are included in the upgrades.
Initially, Ford intended to start a commercial self-driving vehicle business in 2021 but postponed it until 2022, citing delays due to the pandemic of coronavirus. It has also previously announced plans for its commercial fleet to use a purpose-built autonomous vehicle without manual controls, such as a steering wheel and pedals.
A Ford spokesman stated that those plans remain unchanged, but will be dependent on many factors, including self-driving vehicles’ safety, regulations and community acceptance.