Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. The author is a Forbes contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer. Ford President and CEO Mark Fields addresses the Flat Rock Assembly Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, in Flat Rock, Mich. Ford is canceling plans to build a new $1.6 billion factory in Mexico and will invest $700 million in a Michigan plant to build new electric and autonomous vehicles.
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.
CES 2017, is expected to feature the latest auto technology, including self-driving and concept cars. The show will run from Jan. 5-8 in Las Vegas with Jan. 3 and Jan. 4 being press days. Here's what you can expect to see from automakers at one of technology's biggest events: Ford will reveal its next generation Fusion Hybrid autonomous development car at CES 2017, after giving the public a glimpse of the car in a video before the show. The new vehicle comes with new electrical controls and two 360-degree view LiDAR sensors. The car's updates are focused on its virtual driver system, with the vehicle's brain located in the trunk, the company says.
If you pull up alongside a self-driving car today, you'll probably know it immediately -- bulky external sensors make most of the current models logging test miles for Waymo, Chevy and others stick out on the streets like a sore thumb. There are a few less goofy-looking models on the road with autopilot features, like the Audi R7, but they're not so prevalent. But if you run into one of the brand-new, next-gen driverless Ford Fusion Hybrids in the coming months, you might never notice it's autonomous. Chris Brewer, the chief program engineer of Ford's Autonomous Vehicle Development program, unveiled the latest iteration of Ford's self-driving tech in a Medium post yesterday, just ahead of the car company's mobility company's planned presentation next week at CES in Las Vegas. There are two main elements to creating the new development vehicle, according to Brewer: the autonomous vehicle platform (aka the car itself) and the virtual driver system, which is the brains behind the beast.
Ford gave a glimpse of its next generation Fusion Hybrid self-driving car Wednesday in a video. The car, which will be revealed at CES 2017 and the North American International Show in January, is the next-generation of hybrid autonomous cars, the company said. Ford launched its first-generation Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicles three years ago. The new car has the current Ford autonomous vehicle platform, but revamps the processing power with new computer hardware. The vehicle also comes with new electrical controls and two 360-degree view LiDAR sensors, which have a sleeker design and more targeted field of vision, Ford says.
Mapmaking used to be the domain of a select group of cartographers that would gather, review, and plot out data onto sheets of paper. The chances that you actually knew a cartographer in the past were probably pretty slim--but not anymore. Today and in the future, virtually everyone is or will be a contributor to the increasingly detailed maps that represent the world we live in. As our vehicles become increasingly automated, they need ever more detailed maps and not just the maps we get from Google or Apple on our smartphones. The self-driving car will need much more information.
BlackBerry may have given up the smartphone-making battle, but it still wants its presence in the market to be felt by many consumers. In a new attempt at finding its place in the tech industry, the once-popular Canadian smartphone maker revealed that it is joining the self-driving vehicle market with its own driver assistance and autonomous vehicle technology. VentureBeat has learned that BlackBerry is opening its autonomous driving research center in Canada this Monday. A spokeswoman has confirmed that BlackBerry's subsidiary QNX's Ottawa facility is expanding to include research and development of a more advanced technology for self-driving cars. Due to financial constraints, however, the company intends to just come up with the software foundation for other platforms and not really invest in artificial intelligence and machine learning like what Silicon Valley firms are doing.
As carmakers and tech companies race to perfect self-driving vehicles, Apple's program and its automotive intentions remain notably ambiguous. Like Washington's old rule about the National Security Agency, its very existence isn't to be mentioned – at least not by the company. Yet when Apple recently offered views on preliminary guidelines for autonomous vehicles in a letter to U.S. regulators, it let slip an interesting detail: Its "Titan" project team has a high-level Big 3 veteran with more than 30 years of industry expertise. The author of Apple's comments to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is Steve Kenner, identified in the letter as the company's director of product integrity. It confirms that Apple wants the option to test automated vehicles on public roads, though it doesn't mention a specific plan to do so or an intention to commercialize such technology.
The trickle-down benefits of Ford's autonomous driving technology are making their way into more and more consumer vehicles. While Tesla might get all the headlines with Autopilot, Ford has been quietly rolling out smart, driver-assist features across more of its vehicles than any other manufacturer. Today, the automaker announced a new generation of technologies like evasive steering assist, cross-traffic alerts, pedestrian detection and enhanced self-parking that should make driving a little less stressful and a lot safer for everyone. Currently in development, cross-traffic alerts will detect objects that are about to pass behind the vehicle while reversing and alert the driver with a warning sound and a wide-angle view on the backup camera. If the driver still doesn't respond, the car will automatically brake to avoid a fender bender.
Last year, the auto giant hung its shingle outside what it calls the Ford Research and Innovation Center, Palo Alto, as it seeks to embrace technology's disruption of its 100-plus-year-old business. With personal auto ownership as passe as telephone landlines to a new generation of consumers, electric-car powerhouse Tesla Motors Inc. TSLA, 1.27% -- also based in Palo Alto--upending the industry, and self-driving vehicles predicted in our future, Ford, like most auto makers around the world, is behind the proverbial eight ball. Last year, Ford officially opened its Palo Alto research center, after first establishing a downtown Palo Alto office and scouting location in 2012. On a global level, Ford's research centers in Dearborn, Michigan; Aachen, Germany; and Palo Alto are working with the University of Michigan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University on autonomous vehicles.