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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Ford's latest concept vehicle is designed to better-equip firefighters for the tough tasks ahead.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Filson is a brand for go-everywhere lifestyle enthusiasts looking to be equipped for the long road ahead. The Ford Bronco is ready to take them there. A new partnership between the two iconic names in outdoors-ing has resulted in the Bronco + Filson Wildland Fire Rig concept and limited-edition outdoor gear.

The Bronco + Filson Wildland Fire Rig concept features a combination of firefighting equipment, rugged materials crafted by Filson, and the four-door Bronco. It is designed to be a tribute to the decades of first responders who used the Bronco for their firefighting duties.

"Ford and Filson share a unique history of helping protect our nation's wildfire crews for more than a century and helping them access rugged areas of forests," said Dave Rivers, Bronco marketing manager. "Today, we're combining those strengths to support those who protect our natural resources as well as helping preserve our nation's forests for future generations."

Ford Bronco + Filson Wildland Fire Rig concept

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The new concept car is based on the 2021 Ford Bronco four-door Badlands trim with available Sasquatch Package. Its exterior features a Forest Service Green paint job that is similar to the color used on the first-generation U.S. Forest Service Bronco. At its face is a modular steel Ford Performance bumper with a Warn Zeon 10s winch.

A heavy-duty custom roof rack with Rigid LED light bar is mounted to the Bronco's accessory points on the side mirror arms and rear J-plate. The rack holds a Pulaski, shovel, water tanks and axes, and is strong enough to double as a firefighter lookout. Additional specialized equipment on the rig includes a Kimtek Firelite Fire/Rescue Transport skid that comes with a Hannay Reels fire hose reel, Davey high-pressure water pump, 50-gallon water tank, Stihl chainsaw, two hard hats, a high lift jack, and Sure Seal drop torch attached to it.

Filson materials make the interior of the concept tougher. There's otter green canvas door bolsters, armrests, and seat trim surrounds. The seating surfaces have quilted black leather inspired by Filson's jacket lining, and Ann embossed Bronco logo.

Grab handles and the center console are painted in matching Filson otter green while a CB radio is mounted to the Bronco's versatile BYO device rack on the instrument panel.

Fireproof ripstop nylon similar to that on Filson backpacks and briefcases is used for the bimini-style top and rear cargo area divider. The top can be opened, rolled back and secured by Filson bridle leather straps.

Bronco Wild Fund Presents: Shared History, Shared Action | Ford www.youtube.com

There's a Cerakote ceramic coating on the wheels, custom fabricated roof rack and grille, and a unique inside for the center console and instrument panel trim, all of which are designed for longevity. The center of the steering wheel features the Bronco horse plated in Filson brass. An embroidered Filson logo is mounted to the interior top and a similar logo has bee napplied to the center console trim tag.

"The Filson and Bronco collaboration was a natural fit, given the deep histories both brands have with the U.S. Forest Service dating back to the midcentury, when crews relied on the Filson Cruiser jackets and first-generation Broncos to reach remote terrain and protect them in harsh conditions," said Doug Thielen, director of marketing at Filson. "Our resilient materials and innovative product designs are the perfect complement for the rugged Bronco SUV, and honor wildland firefighters who risk it all to protect our forests and natural resources."

Earlier this week, Ford announced its new Bronco Wild Fund initiative. The company is set to use a percentage of the sales money it brings in from Bronco sales to fund an endowment that will benefit numerous outdoors-focused initiatives. Ford and the Bronco Wild Fund will donate two Broncos outfitted with firefighting equipment to help wildland fire personnel protect communities and vital natural resources.

Additionally, Filson and Ford will sell limited-edition Bronco + Filson outdoor gear at Filson.com to benefit the Bronco Wild Fund.

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The sale of every Ford Bronco will benefit America's wilderness. Ford Motor Company is establishing the Bronco Wild Fund, a charitable effort aimed at supporting the enjoyment and preservation of America's wilderness through a variety of grants and initiatives.

The endowment of the Wild Fund will be funded by a portion of the proceeds from Bronco two-door, four-door, and Bronco Sport sales, as well as Ford licensed merchandise. Ford says that the goal is for the fund to raise up to $5 million annually.

2021 Ford Bronco four-door Many orders have already been placed for the 2021 Bronco. Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

As part of the announcement the company is taking first public steps today to showcase an aspect of what the fund was designed to do.

"The Bronco Wild Fund will help Bronco owners and off-road enthusiasts connect with the outdoors on a deeper, more personal level – ultimately enabling them to become responsible stewards of our nation's treasures," said Mark Grueber, Bronco brand marketing manager.

Strategic alliances will make the fund's efforts possible. The first two beneficiaries of the fund's support are the National Forest Foundation and Outward Bound USA. The National Forest Foundation, created by Congress in 1992, is the only nonprofit solely dedicated to protecting and promoting America's 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands. Ford has pledged to plant 1 million new trees by the end of 2021 in cooperation with the National Forest Foundation.

Founded in 1941, Outward Bound USA pioneered outdoor adventure learning around the world and now operates in more than 30 countries. The organization will receive funds to provide access for young people to learn and grow through outdoor experiences in some of our country's great wilderness spaces.

Outward Bound USA Outward Bound USA provides outdoor experiences for America's youth.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford says that future preservation initiatives will include financial support for reforestation and trail maintenance programs, forest health, fire mitigation, and restoration work.

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is expected to arrive at dealerships soon. The Bronco two-door and four-door will following in 2021.

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