If only Henry Ford could see how far beyond "black paint only" his company is now.
Amid the news about Google and Uber apparently gearing up for a battle to see who can be the first to put automated taxis on public roadways, the venerable Ford Motor Co. is finally jumping into a whole new market: It announced Dec. 15 at a press event at its new software research lab in Palo Alto, Calif. that it is putting a public face on its own self-driving cars.
Drivers in the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere in California will soon be seeing driverless Fords on the streets and freeways.
Ford has been quietly developing an autonomous car for a decade. It now has officially enrolled in the California Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program, meaning the company can start testing self-driving Fusion Hybrids on open roads.
The robotic Fords (pictured) are identifiable by sensors on their roofs and in the rear wheels.
Thus, the Dearborn, Mich.-based company joins a group of other competitors who have announced that they, too, are seriously putting the "auto" into the term "automobile." They aren't all primarily car manufacturers, either. Those would be BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla Motors, Bosch, Nissan, and Honda, to name but a few.
Bosch makes components for cars, such as spark plugs and radios. Apple, another non-carmaker, also has been rumored to be preparing its own self-driver.
In its initiative, Ford teamed up with Palo Alto-based Pivotal Software three years ago to enhance the connected car experience for drivers by simplifying how they use technology to access vehicles and services. Pivotal provides software and services for the agile development of custom applications for data and analytics based on cloud computing.
The partnership's main goal is to make Ford a more agile software developer, enabling better customer experiences in using Ford's SYNC Connect system that provides remote access to vehicle features via a smartphone app.
Ford plans to build a major part of its new connected vehicle platform atop Pivotal Cloud Foundry – one of the world's most powerful continuous-innovation cloud platforms. It also plans to use Pivotal's Big Data Suite to analyze data in real time and over longer periods to develop new applications.