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 TestingFord 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 TestingFord 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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Lincoln will not make a performance variant to compete with Cadillac.

Lincoln

TheLincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade have been duking it out at the top of luxury SUV rankings for decades, but there’s one area of the Caddy’s development that Lincoln won’t touch. In a recent interview, a company executive told Ford Authority that it has no plans to create a performance variant of the Navigator to compete with the upcoming Escalade V from Cadillac.

2022 Lincoln NavigatorThe new Navigator features several upscale touches and excellent tech. Lincoln

That means the Navigator will stick with the powertrain it’s carried for years, which is a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine that makes 440 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a smooth ten-speed automatic and either rear- or four-wheel drive. While there’s more than enough power to get the hulking Lincoln moving, it’s not a powertrain that inspires excitement or engagement, and though beefy, it’s tuned much more for comfort and quietness than drama.

Though more than adequate, those specs are a far cry from the numbers we expect from the Escalade V. The full-size bruiser from Cadillac is expected to get a supercharged 6.2-liter V8, similar to the unit seen in the CT5-V Blackwing and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. We don’t know power numbers yet, but the engine should deliver horsepower and torque numbers in the high 600s.

Cadillac Escalade VThe Escalade V will be massively powerful. Cadillac

That Lincoln is taking a different approach isn’t surprising. The automaker has already announced its intention to go all-electric, so pouring more time and resources into creating a performance gas-powered SUV isn’t in line with its goals. Company executives have also expressed a desire to avoid imitating rivals, so the decision to leave a performance Navigator behind is not surprising.

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First-year Ford F-150 Lightning production numbers doubled
Ford

Ford has begun serial production of the new F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck, marking what could be one of the most important days in recent automotive history. The first trucks rolled off the assembly line at Ford's Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Michigan today, so America's best-selling truck has finally gone electric. Ford wants to sell two million EVs per year by 2026 and have half of its global sales volume to be electric by 2030.

Ford F-150 LightningPast meets future: Ford's new electric pickup will be the F-150 Lightningautomotivemap.com

Ford has seen extreme demand for the trucks, with 200,000 reservations since the books opened. To deliver, the automaker plans to increase production to an annual rate of 150,000 units by next year, which involved huge investments in the Rouge Center and created hundreds of jobs. Ford's total investment for the F-150 Lightning crests $1 billion across Michigan alone, and has created 1,700 jobs across various facilities in the state.

Ford F-150 LightningThe first production trucks left the factory today.
Ford Motor Company

Though the Lightning starts around $40,000, the most mainstream models will cost much more than that. The F-150 Lightning Pro, while affordable, is a stripped-down truck intended for commercial buyers. It's still a forward-looking electric truck with amazing capabilities, but it lacks much of the creature comforts and features that everyday drivers expect. Higher trims get the latest driver assistance features, including BlueCruise, which is Ford's semi-autonomous hands-free driving assistant. A 12-inch touchscreen is standard, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and more.

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