Self-Driving

Ford expands self-driving vehicle operations to Austin

Austin has become the third city that Ford will test its self-driving vehicles in.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Austin was the first city in the U.S. to allow fa self-driving test vehicle on public streets. Ford is beginning its self-driving vehicle testing in the city, making it the third municipality Ford is testing in, alongside Miami-Dade County and Washington D.C.

"At Ford, we think self-driving vehicles have an important role to play in the future of our cities. As we continue to move towards the commercial launch of our self-driving vehicle services, we are expanding our testing operations in Austin in collaboration with Argo AI," said Sherif Marakby, CEO, Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC. "This includes working closely with city and state officials and community partners to help ensure we are properly integrating our plans into the wider transportation system."

Time is ticking. Ford has committed to having a fully autonomous vehicle in operation by 2021.

Ford Autonomous Testing Ford is using Austin as a proving ground for new autonomous driving technology.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

What does that mean? Ford says that their autonomous mobility solution will be classified as a SAE Level 4 capable-vehicle, or, "one of High Automation that can complete all aspects of driving without a human driver to intervene."

To help complete that goal, Ford has partnered with Velodyne, SAIPS, Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC, and Civil Maps to expand its research into advanced algorithms, 3-D mapping, radar technology, and camera sensors.

Ford will not be running the vehicles on a set course in Austin. The vehicle will test in full-autonomous mode with two safety drivers in the front seats on city streets as they operate on a daily basis. That means the ever-present obstacles of jaywalkers, parallel parking, and construction.

Ford Autonomous Testing Ford is using its Fusion sedan to test autonomous vehicles in the U.S.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

"This commitment is part of what makes Austin such a great place to launch a self-driving vehicle business, but it's just the start," Marakby wrote in a Medium.com post. "We believe that if you want to successfully launch a self-driving service that improves people's lives, you can't just drop into a city and start rolling cars out onto the streets. You need to develop a comprehensive understanding of what people and local businesses would find useful — and that's exactly what we'll be doing over the next few years."

In each of the last eight years, Austin has been the fastest growing metro region in America, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As such, it is facing transportation challenges at a rapid rate.

"With our region's population on track to double in the next 20 to 25 years, it's clear we need to re-think how our right-of-way is used if we want people to be able to move around our city," said Steve Adler, Mayor of Austin.

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization predicts vehicle use in the Austin region could double by 2040, while highway capacity will only grow 15 percent. Its 2045 Plan features a multimodal approach to addressing Austin's transportation needs over the next 25 years. Part of that strategy includes traditional options like walking and biking, but also could include new technologies, such as ride-hailing apps and autonomous vehicle integration.

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The Bronco will get two new colors for 2022.

Ford

The new Ford Bronco was in such high demand that buyers were in for a long wait, even before the pandemic and microchip shortages wreaked havoc on automotive supply chains and production. Even now, with little hope of a speedy vehicle delivery, buyers are still lining up to get the new SUV, and to reward those whose dreams will have to wait until 2022, Ford is debuting two new colors: Eruption Green and Hot Pepper Metallic.


2022 Ford Bronco Eruption Green and Hot Pepper Metallic will be available. Ford


Ford revealed the colors at this year's Woodward Dream Cruise. The first-generation Bronco, which ran from 1966 through 1977, was the featured vehicle at the cruise, which presented the opportunity to introduce new colors for the upcoming model year. The two new colors won't join the Bronco's existing color catalog until order banks open for the new model year later in 2021. Ford says that the current color catalog which includes Antimatter Blue, Lightning Blue Metallic, and Rapid Red Metallic will be available through the end of the 2021 model year.


2022 Ford Bronco Many Bronco buyers will have to wait until 2022 to get their new SUV.Ford


The new colors may end up being the shades of choice for many current hopeful Bronco buyers. Along with pandemic-related delays, Ford's rollout of the new Bronco has been plagued by hardtop-related cosmetic issues. The problem is big enough for the automaker to replace the top of every hardtop Bronco built so far. This includes vehicles already purchased, the rare few sitting on dealers' lots, and even recently produced vehicles still hanging around the factory. Buyers still waiting for their Broncos to be built will be waiting a while, to the point that Ford says many orders will be pushed into the new model year. Ford is offering Bronco-related merchandise and promises a price lock for all buyers whose orders have been pushed, and now it appears they'll have two new colors to choose from as well.

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Three two-women teams will compete in a new Bronco or Bronco Sport.

Ford

As the pandemic ramped up last summer, auto event organizers were canceling left and right to avoid gathering groups of people to spread the virus. A few events went on, especially outdoor racing events such as the Rebelle Rally. The all-woman off-road event covers desert terrain in Nevada and California, and this year Ford Motor Company is sending three teams to compete in different versions of the Bronco and Bronco Sport SUVs.

All three teams will compete in some sort of Bronco SUV. Shelby Hall and Penny Dale, who drive a Bronco Sport in last year's Rebelle Rally, return to the competition in 2021, this time with a Bronco two-door. Pro off-roaders Melissa Fischer and Cora Jokinen will pilot a Bronco Sport in the X-cross class and novice racers Kathryn Reinhardt and Victoria Bundrant from accessory supplier 4Wheel Parts will drive a four-door Bronco in the 4x4 class.


2021 Rebelle Rally Two Broncos and a Bronco Sport will compete. Ford


The Bronco Sport and Bronco four-door are both Badlands models. The two-door Bronco is a Wildtrak model. All of the SUVs have been decked out in special Bronco 4600-inspired race livery. The two-door Bronco will enter the competition equipped with the Sasquatch package, but will otherwise retain is factory stock configuration. The Bronco Sport will also remain stock, other than having its back seat removed. Ford says the 4Wheel Parts team will accessorize the four-door Bronco.

The Rebelle Rally is the first women's off-road navigation rally in the United States. Teams are not allowed to use electronic maps, such as in-dash navigation or mapping tools built into smartphones. Ford says its teams will disable the features in the Broncos they'll be driving in the event.


2021 Rebelle Rally The Bronco Sport will remain stock, but will have its back seats removed.Ford

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