Product, Service & Design Innovation
Wearables, Startups, 3D Printing Helping Ford Drive Progress in Autonomous Vehicles Technology

Today, Ford announced progress on its commitment to developing autonomous vehicle technology, including innovations in wearable technology and collaborations with startups in Silicon Valley to make mobility solutions more accessible. The announcement, made at the Further with Ford trend conference, marks a transition from Ford’s investment in autonomous vehicle technology as a research effort to an advanced engineering program.

Ford Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto is working with the global Ford team to deliver the Ford Smart Mobility plan, which aims to advance the company’s products in terms of connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and big data. The team is now working to make the required sensing and computing technology feasible for production and continuing to test and refine algorithms. Ford says this marks the second of three phases in the process of bringing autonomous vehicle technology to market.

“During the next five years, we will move to migrate driver-assist technologies across our product lineup to help make our roads safer and continue to increase automated driving capability,” said Raj Nair, Ford Group VP of Global Product Development. “At the same time, we are working to make sure those features and the whole way you shop for, buy and own a Ford vehicle provides an outstanding customer experience.”

Ford has also been working to extend connectivity innovations to wearable technology by developing a MyFord® Mobile app extension coming soon for smartwatches — including Android Wear. Customers will have the ability to check the driving range and battery charge for their plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle quickly from their wrists before they leave on a trip, or to find the location where they last parked. The application is already available for smartphones.

In addition, Ford is partnering with key players in Silicon Valley to make mobility solutions available to millions worldwide. The company has been working with Redwood City-based Carbon3D, which developed Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) technology — a 3D-printing technology that grows parts from UV curable resins as much as 25 to 100 times faster than conventional 3D-printing processes. Carbon3D technology uses engineering resins able to damp vibrations, support loads or withstand high temperatures. Ford uses parts produced with this technology for a range of purposes in its vehicles, including for high-quality, automotive-grade parts.

“Our ability to innovate depends on how quickly we can move from idea to production,” Nair said. “This technology enables us to quickly create automotive-grade parts for product design prototypes — and perhaps even production parts — faster than ever before, so we can deliver new vehicles to customers even sooner.”

Already this year, Ford has showcased 25 mobility experiments around the world at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — experiments launched to test breakthrough transportation ideas for better customer experiences, more flexible user-ship models and social collaboration that can reward customers; expanded its MyEnergi Lifestyle program to China; and made GoDrive, its successful London-based car-sharing experiment, available to the public. The company highlighted these mobility achievements and more in its latest sustainability report, released last week.

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