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Ford Looks to AI, Biomimicry Solutions to Stay Ahead of the Curve

#artificialintelligence

Two new announcements from Ford highlight how the auto and mobility company is harnessing technology to get ahead. With ambitious plans to launch an autonomous vehicle in 2021, Ford has announced that it is investing $1 billion over the next five years in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence company founded by former Google and Uber leaders, to develop a virtual driver system. Argo AI founders Bryan Salesky, company CEO, and Peter Rander, COO, -- both of whom have worked on self-driving car teams at Google and Uber -- have brought together a team of some of the most experienced roboticists and engineers in the industry to develop the new system for Ford's SAE level 4 self-driving vehicles. "The next decade will be defined by the automation of the automobile, and autonomous vehicles will have as significant an impact on society as Ford's moving assembly line did 100 years ago," said Ford President and CEO Mark Fields. "As Ford expands to be an auto and a mobility company, we believe that investing in Argo AI will create significant value for our shareholders by strengthening Ford's leadership in bringing self-driving vehicles to market in near term and by creating technology that could be licensed to others in the future."


Ford bets $1 billion on an unknown self-driving AI company

Engadget

Seemingly out of the blue, Ford announced today that it's investing $1 billion in Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based company building self-driving technology. Ford is effectively buying the previously unknown startup, which was founded by engineers from Google and Uber. Argo AI will operate as an independent subsidiary and will focus on developing a software platform for Ford's self-driving car, which the company is targeting for 2021. Notably, Ford is also planning to license the technology out to other companies. While the extent of the deal is surprising, it makes sense for Ford, especially after GM acquired the self-driving car startup Cruise for over $1 billion last year.


The coolest concept cars from CES

USATODAY

With the rise in self-driving technology, the latest automobiles are grabbing more attention at The Consumer Electronics Show. Las Vegas – January 3, 2017 – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles unveiled the Chrysler Portal Concept at CES 2017 today. While CES is an acronym for Consumer Electronics Show, the running joke at this annual Las Vegas event is that CES is turning into the Car Electronics Show. Many of the world's biggest auto makers have become a major part of this highly-publicized conference – which serves as a glimpse into the future of technology -- by dominating much of the North Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center, as well as surrounding facilities. And it doesn't seem to matter this Sin City event falls on the heels of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.


Does CES now stand for 'Car Electronics Show'?

USATODAY

With the rise in self-driving technology, the latest automobiles are grabbing more attention at The Consumer Electronics Show. CES showed off some technology (available now or soon) that can make your life easier and/or better. While CES is an acronym for Consumer Electronics Show, the running joke at this annual Las Vegas event is that CES is turning into the Car Electronics Show. Many of the world's biggest auto makers have become a major part of this highly-publicized conference – which serves as a glimpse into the future of technology -- by dominating much of the North Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center, as well as surrounding facilities. And it doesn't seem to matter this Sin City event falls on the heels of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.


Ford cancels Mexico factory and will invest in Michigan in 'vote of confidence' for Trump plans

Los Angeles Times

Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday it was scrapping plans to build a $1.6-billion factory in Mexico and would invest $700 million to expand a Michigan plant to build electric and autonomous vehicles that will add 700 jobs there in a move Ford's chief executive said was a "vote of confidence" in the economic policies of President-elect Donald Trump. Ford isn't abandoning expanded production in Mexico. The company said that to "improve company profitability" it would build its next-generation Ford Focus at an existing plant in Hermosillo, Mexico. But in the wake of criticism by President-elect Donald Trump of the U.S. automaker and other companies moving manufacturing jobs across the border, Ford said it would cancel its plans for a major new plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. A company news release didn't mention Trump, but Chief Executive Mark Fields told CNN on Tuesday that the new plans were "a vote of confidence" in the direction of the U.S. economy under the president-elect.


Ford's new self-driving Fusion almost looks like a regular car

Engadget

Ford has shown the first images of its new self-driving Fusion Hybrid with a more powerful computer and improved, better-integrated sensors. It uses an upgraded version of the Fusion Hybrid platform, bolstered by self-driving hardware, a large new computer and electrical controls that "are close to production-ready," the company said in a press release. It also packs lower-profile LIDAR units that appear to be the "Puck" models from Velodyne, a company in which it recently invested $150 million. Cameras and other bits are smoothly built into the roof, making the hybrid less "hey, look at me, I'm a self-driving car" than other models. By contrast, the last autonomous Fusion model used since 2013 featured no less than four bulky LIDAR units.


Tesla cars to have full self-driving gear, but feature disabled for now

PCWorld

Tesla Motors' cars will come fitted with full self-driving hardware, as the company jousts with tech rivals like Google and car makers like Ford who are making a dash for the autonomous car market. The company has since then upgraded the Autopilot technology, adding radar as a primary control sensor. The radar was added to all Tesla vehicles in October 2014 as part of the Autopilot hardware suite, but was only meant to be a supplementary sensor to the primary camera and image processing system, Tesla said. The company said that as of Wednesday all cars, including Model 3, produced in its factory will have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability "at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver."


Ignore Trump: Ford's Move to Mexico Is Good for US Workers

WIRED

Ford's plan to shift the production of small cars from Michigan to Mexico dismayed those people worried about the demise of American manufacturing. In fact, Ford building small cars in Mexico allows the automaker to ramp up production of trucks and SUVs in the states, which is good news locally and more widely. Labor comprises a smaller percentage of the cost of larger, more expensive vehicles like trucks and SUVs, which have far larger profit margins for automakers. In other words, it makes more economic sense to build cheap cars abroad and expensive cars at home--which is what Ford plans to do.


Ford Rolls Out Business Services Unit, Plans Autonomous-Car Services

Wall Street Journal

The Dearborn, Mich., auto maker told investors on Wednesday that its new business services unit eventually will deliver 20% margins, two-and-a-half-times its core auto-making operation. It updated its plans for venturing into robo-taxis, electric car and other transportation services like bike sharing and shuttle vans. "The world is moving from simply owning vehicles to owning and sharing them," Mr. Fields said. Ford didn't put a timetable on its lofty 20% margin target for new initiatives, which compares with a forecast of 8% margins in the core operation selling trucks, sport-utility vehicles and cars in markets all over the world.


Ford to focus on electric vehicles, autonomous tech in company shakeup

ZDNet

Ford has revealed plans to grow and increase profit margins by streamlining and transforming the company into a dominant player in next-generation automotive technology. On Wednesday, the Dearborn, Michigan-based firm said that expansion into the mobile area is moving apace, but more opportunities await the automaker in next-generation technologies -- including electric vehicles (EVs) and self-driving technology. Ford plans to grow the company through an enhanced focus on utility vehicles and heavy investment in "emerging opportunities," with the overall aim of becoming a leader in "electrification, autonomy and mobility," the firm said in a press release. "We expect Ford's performance to be strong through 2018 -- with our core business improving, allowing us to invest in the emerging opportunities that will ensure our future success," said Ford CFO Bob Shanks.