Ford Self-Driving Unit Gains Some Autonomy

By: Bridget Clerkin July 30, 2018
Ford Autonomous Vehicles, the automaker’s newly independent self-driving arm, is kicking off business August 1.
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Ford Motor Co. is hoping some independence will help make its autonomous cars a little more self-sufficient.

The automotive giant recently announced that its self-driving car unit will be turned into a separate company.

Called Ford Autonomous Vehicles, the fledgling business will benefit from its deep ties to the Dearborn-based automaker. As of now, the new company stands to inherit $4 billion in startup funding from its parent company. The figure includes Ford’s previous $1 billion investment in self-driving car startup Argo AI, which was finalized early last year.

The new autonomous company will also profit from other recent spending by Ford, including the automaker’s new lease on Detroit’s historic Central Station. Ford Autonomous Vehicles is slated to operate out of the building—called the Corktown campus—and while the anticipated opening of the new site isn’t until 2022, the company will officially kick off business starting August 1.

Headed by current Ford vice president Sherif Marakby, the new venture will encompass all autonomy-centric projects previously handled under the Ford Smart Mobility unit. As CEO, Marakby will answer to a board chaired by the president of Ford’s Mobility unit, Marcy Klevorn.

The new company’s expected areas of focus include the development of new self-driving systems and autonomous research, along with further work on advanced engineering, user experience, and the creation of an autonomous vehicle transportation network.

Ford’s announcement of the new venture was heralded as a sign not only of the automaker’s seriousness in autonomous vehicles, but also in its progress toward mastering the technology. Indeed, the company has previously pledged to release a fully-autonomous car—complete without pedals or a steering wheel—by 2021.

“Ford has made tremendous progress across the self-driving value chain—from technology development to business model innovation to user experience,” Ford president and CEO Jim Hackett said in the company’s official announcement on the project. “Now is the right time to consolidate our autonomous driving platform into one team to best position the business for the opportunities ahead.”

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