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Ford plans self-driving taxi by 2021. Image by Ford.

Ford plans self-driving taxi by 2021
Five years to ride-sharing Ford autonomous vehicle with no steering wheel or pedals...
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What's all this about?

Ford wants to have a self-driving taxi, or something like it, on the roads by 2021. It has invested in four start-up companies with the express idea of bringing this dreadful idea to a reality, because this actual 'Johnny Cab' will have no steering wheel and no pedals. Occupants will be doomed if the robotised car gets a mind of its own.

Enough with the technofear. Tell me about this rationally.

OK... sorry. There's an international group, albeit US-based, called the Society of Automotive Engineers, and the car will meet this body's level four grade for autonomous cars. Ford wants it to be used in high volumes by ride-sharing or ride-hailing 'commercial mobility systems'. As part of this work, its advanced tech R&D team in Silicon Valley will double in size, while the Palo Alto Research and Innovation Centre will physically grow by more than double.

And which four companies are involved with Ford?

First up is Velodyne, a Silicon Valley company that's a leader in light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensors. Then we have SAIPS, an Israeli computer vision and machine learning company, designed to strengthen Ford's expertise in artificial intelligence. Similarly, Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC is another machine vision company founded by a neuroscientist called Dr Sheila Nirenberg, who 'cracked the neural code the eye uses to transmit visual information to the brain', and this should be allowing the autonomous cars to have more 'human-like' thoughts. Finally, there's Civil Maps, from Berkeley, CA, which will develop high-resolution 3D mapping capabilities.

Anything else you'd like to add?

'I'm not familiar with that address, please would you repeat the destination?'

Stop it, now.


Matt Robinson - 17 Aug 2016

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