Image via Ford

Image via Ford

Ford announced plans to have fully autonomous, driverless ride-sharing vehicles in commercial operation by 2021.

The vehicle will be a Society of Automotive Engineers-rated level 4-capable vehicle without a steering wheel or gas and brake pedals. It is being specifically designed for commercial mobility services, such as ride sharing and ride hailing, and will be available in high volumes.

To get there, the company is investing in or collaborating with four startups (see below) to enhance its autonomous vehicle development in the areas of advanced algorithms, 3D mapping, LiDAR, and radar and camera sensors.

  • Velodyne is the Silicon Valley-based developer of light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensors, which are used for high-resolution mapping — key for autonomous vehicle technology.
  •     SAIPS: The Israel-based computer vision and machine learning company's expertise will help Ford autonomous vehicles learn and adapt to the surroundings of their environment.
  •     Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC: Ford’s partnership with Nirenberg Neuroscience, a machine vision company, 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.

This year, Ford will triple its autonomous vehicle test fleet to be the largest test fleet of any automaker — bringing the number to about 30 self-driving Fusion Hybrid sedans on the roads in California, Arizona and Michigan, with plans to triple it again next year. The automaker is also is expanding its Silicon Valley operations, creating a dedicated campus in Palo Alto by the end of 2017.