Ford’s president of Mobility, Marcy Klevorn, said during the automaker’s recent earnings call that the Ford autonomous cars effort is doing well. Currently, Ford is operating autonomous cars in both Washington D.C. and Miami. Klevorn says that by the end of 2019, Ford plans to have 100 autonomous cars on the road.
She also noted that the automaker is making an effort to test its autonomous vehicles in cities where the “really difficult setting” will prove the capability of the vehicles. While other automakers, such as Tesla and GM, are sticking to more rural and open areas for autonomous testing, Ford says that it prefers to test cars in places where the weather changes and there are challenges associated with urban drivers.
It’s much more difficult for autonomous cars to operate in urban environments where the autonomous systems must deal with pedestrians, bicyclists, and typically heavier traffic. Klevorn went so far as to say that Ford is focusing on “complex miles” rather than easier miles in areas where the roads don’t change a lot. Ford does plan to begin testing in a third city later this year, but it’s unclear right now where that third city will be.
Ford is also working on building a new factory in Michigan to support its autonomous vehicle efforts. Ford is investing heavily in several future vehicle technologies. Part of that investment is in electrification with Ford investing $500 million into EV maker Rivian in a deal that will gain Ford access to Rivian’s skateboard EV platform.
GM was negotiating with Rivian, but GM wanted exclusive access to Rivian tech, and ultimately negotiations fell apart. In the future EV, and autonomous technology will undoubtedly meet and combine to create autonomous electric vehicles.