Ford has announced the creation of the Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Research team as part of its Research and Advanced Engineering, which aims at helping the company achieve its vision for the future.

The team will be dedicated to a greater focus on evaluating new sensor technologies, machine learning methods, technical requirements for entry into global markets, and development of personal mobility devices, drones and other aerial robotics to enhance first- and last-mile travel.

“With our plans to be at the forefront in the field, this move aligns multiple disciplines under one team for a more concerted effort as we increasingly come to understand the potential for robotics and artificial intelligence.

“The move also serves to further advance projects we’ve already presented such as our autonomous vehicle development program, and those we aren’t quite ready to reveal,” said Ford chief technology officer and Research and Advanced Engineering vice president Dr Ken Washington.

The company has established partnership with Argo AI to lead development of its virtual driver system, which includes the computer platform, sensors and algorithms, for its first-generation self-driving vehicle programme.

With Argo AI leading development of Ford’s virtual driver system for production self-driving vehicles, building off what the company has started, it can use its existing virtual driver system for continued research without disrupting production work.

“The journey toward a world with autonomous vehicles gets a lot of attention these days, but there are many other important ways that computing power and sensor technology capability will help shape the future of transportation.

“Simply put, the impact of robotics and artificial intelligence on the way we get around – even in just the next five to 10 years – is potentially enormous,” said Washington.

Washington said the potential for autonomous vehicle technology to transform society means there is heavy emphasis on its development, but automation and artificial intelligence can be applied in other ways as well.

The company is already using robotics in manufacturing and logistics, and will evaluate further advancements in collaborative robots to assist in ergonomically difficult tasks.

“Artificial intelligence plays a big role as part of our Global Data and Analytic team’s support for sales, marketing and finance, so this team will look to further spread the technology to drive smarter decision making and more personalised experiences.

“Our new research team will continue the relationships we’ve built with startup companies through partnerships, investments and acquisitions,” said Washington.

The team will lead projects with universities working on robotics and artificial intelligence, including the University of Michigan, Stanford University, M.I.T., Virginia Tech, Purdue University, Texas A&M, Georgia Institute of Technology and others which Ford is currently developing relationships with.

“This decision is driving energy with everyone on our team, as it clearly indicates the direction of Ford Motor Company.

“Because we understand the science of robotics and artificial intelligence, we can establish a team tasked with not just watching the future, but helping to create it,” added Washington.


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