Ford Creates New Company Devoted to AV Development

This week, Ford announced that it would create an entirely new company called Ford Autonomous Vehicles, which will focus on self-driving vehicle business operations and electric vehicle strategy.

The new organization will be primarily based in Ford’s Corktown campus in Detroit, and the company expects to invest $4 billion in its autonomous vehicle efforts through 2023.

This includes its $1 billion investment in Argo AI, Ford’s Pittsburgh-based partner for self-driving system development.

The automaker has long had plans to make Corktown district the epicenter of its autonomous and electric vehicle businesses, developing smart and connected vehicle and infrastructure technologies.

Ford plans to have at least 1.2 million square feet of space in Corktown — three quarters of which will be split between the company and its partners.

As part of the redevelopment plans, the shuttered Michigan Central Station in Corktown will come roaring back to life as a center for self-driving and electrified vehicle development.

The purchase of the station follows Ford’s acquisition of the former Detroit Public Schools Book Depository, two acres of vacant land, and the site of an old brass factory as part of its Corktown campus.

The company’s vice president for autonomous vehicles and electrification, Sherif Marakby, was appointed CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles, and will report to a board of directors chaired by Ford’s executive vice president and president of mobility, Marcy Klevorn.

“Ford has made tremendous progress across the self driving value chain — from technology development to business model innovation to user experience,” Ford CEO Jim Hackett wrote in a July 24 statement. “Now is the right time to consolidate our autonomous driving platform into one team to best position the business for the opportunities ahead.”

Meanwhile, Ford is moving to more flexible vehicle architectures and more common parts across models, and reorganizing its global operations division to improve supply chain and inventory flows.

“The evolution of computing power and IT have helped bring great products to customers — from cars to tablets,” Hackett noted. “We can now harness this technology to unlock a new world of vehicle personalization, supply chain choreography and inventory leanness.”

The company also recently announced a partnership with Postmates, an on-demand delivery platform, to operate a self-driving delivery service in Miami and Miami Beach, with more than 70 businesses participating.

Ford believes these trials will help to inform the design of the company’s purpose-built self-driving vehicle that’s scheduled to arrive in 2021. A video posted by the automaker shows the trial service in action.

Many of Ford’s consumer vehicles already come equipped with high-speed Internet connectivity and CoPilot360, a suite of advanced driver assist system (ADAS) features.

A wide variety also feature FordPass Connect, which lets Ford customers turn their vehicle into a mobile WiFi hotspot with connectivity for up to ten devices — the company is aiming to make 90% of its new global vehicles Internet equipped by 2020.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.

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