Autonomous vehicles – aka self-driving cars – are a topic of increasing interest, albeit a topic cautiously approached. (Especially with regrettable news from manufacturers like Tesla, as of late.) Some of the pros for autonomous vehicles include conveniences such as improved traffic flows and reduced congestion (as many can vehicle-to-vehicle, or V2V, communicate movements), as well as more mobility provided to individuals not able to manually drive, and accessibility in and through areas with significantly limited public transportation options. (Let’s not forget about positive environmental impacts, either.)
Some cons, on the other hand, include safety hazards (i.e. when autonomous vehicles actually cause accidents, rather than reduce accident rates), plus maintenance costs that are higher, complicated legal issues when a human driver isn’t present, and the potential of being commandeered by hackers due to the vehicles’ reliances on connectivity.
The long story short? This isn’t an easy topic to navigate. (Not even for vehicles like these.)
Enter multinational automobile giant Ford Motor Company. Ford made the announcement that it established Latitude AI, a wholly owned Ford subsidiary tasked with developing new automated driving technology; more specifically, Level 3 (L3) tech in the form of a fully hands-free, eyes-off-the-road driver assistance system for millions of next-gen Ford vehicles.
Previously, Ford and Volkswagen had backed autonomous tech developer Argo AI. That venture was halted due to commercial uncertainty, among other factors. Now, made evident by the Latitude AI news, Ford is refocusing its efforts on L3. (Plus, in the process, Ford was able to re-hire around 550 former Argo AI employees.) Latitude’s AI newly formed team of machine learning (ML), robotics, software, sensors, systems engineering and operations talent are already revamping automated driving L3 experiences for Fords’ consumers. This is a much-needed lift, given that drivers’ tos-and-froms on the road have totaled, on average, more than 100 hours per year sitting in tedious, bumper-to-bumper traffic.
“We see automated, hands-free, eyes-off-the-road driving technology as an opportunity to redefine the relationship between people and their vehicles,” said Doug Field, Chief Advanced Product Development and Technology Officer at Ford. “Customers using BlueCruise for this are already experiencing the benefits of L3. And with the deep experience of our Latitude team, our goal is not only to make travel safer, less stressful and more enjoyable, but ultimately to give our customers some of their days back over time.”
The Latitude AI roadmap isn’t a cakewalk, however. ML, cloud platform integrations, smart mapping, sensors and compute systems, test operations and more have been thoroughly explored as the Latitude team (as Field himself said) pivot to whatever the next-biggest hands-free vehicle needs are in order to power this development.
“We believe automated driving technology will help improve safety while unlocking all-new customer experiences that reduce stress and, in the future, will help truly free up a driver’s time to focus on what they choose,” said Sammy Omari, Executive Director of Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) Technologies at Ford. “Our Latitude experts will complement and enhance Ford’s in-house global ADAS team in developing future driver assist technologies and delivering on the extensive benefits of automation.”
With Latitude AI, Ford expands its portfolio as it takes into-the-future steps towards transforming how we view our driving experiences.
Edited by Greg Tavarez