How Ford Will Speed Up its Self-Driving Car Program
Ford announced that it is creating a new company to oversee all aspects of its self-driving research and business operations. Ford has held extensive testing of its self-driving Fusion and Transit Connect, but not to the extent that General Motors and Waymo have. The new company will be called Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC and it will be headquartered in the Corktown area of Detroit.
Ford recently bought the Michigan Central train station, in Corktown, and once it is refurbished, it will serve as the center of Ford’s autonomous driving campus.
General Motors was the first Detroit automaker to establish an independent company to handle its AV operations. General Motors bought Cruise in 2016 and established Cruise Automation as its self-driving subsidiary. There has been talk that Cruise could be spun off as an entirely separate company.
Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC
Ford says the new self-driving company will help it accelerate autonomous driving technology and capitalize on market opportunities. Ford committed to investing $4 billion into its AV efforts through 2023. The $4 billion includes the $1 billion Ford spent to buy Argo AI.
According to Ford, Ford Autonomous Vehicles, LLC will focus on “Ford’s self-driving systems integration, autonomous vehicle research and advanced engineering, AV transportation-as-a-service network development, user experience, business strategy and business development teams.” Much like GM’s Cruise subsidiary, the Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC is set up to encourage investment from outside companies.
“Ford has made tremendous progress across the self driving value chain – from technology development to business model innovation to user experience,” said Jim Hackett, president and CEO, Ford Motor Company. “Now is the right time to consolidate our autonomous driving platform into one team to best position the business for the opportunities ahead.”
Ford’s vice president of Autonomous Vehicles, Sherif Marakby, will be the new CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles and he will report to Marcy Klevorn who is Ford’s President of Mobility. Ford is hoping that grouping the self-driving vehicles under mobility will help speed development.
Ford is perceived as being way behind General Motors in electrical vehicle and autonomous vehicle development.
Ford Continuing to Make Global Cutbacks
Ford also announced that it is realigning some of its divisions to speed up product development decisions and streamline global manufacturing operations.
Going forward, Ford wants to produce vehicles on five specific flexible vehicle platforms. Ford says that should help them cut product development time by 20 percent and save the company $7 billion in engineering.
“We’re looking at every part of our business, making it more fit and ensuring that every action we take is driven by what will serve our customers in a way that supports our fitness and performance goals,” Hackett said.