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Ford Tripling Autonomous Car Fleet, Testing Amazon Echo Integration

No formal announcement on Google partnership so far.

No formal announcement on Google partnership so far.

Ford has been in talks with Google on autonomous car development, and it was rumored that an announcement on a partnership would be made at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Ford didn’t mention Google at CES, but did talk about autonomous cars, drone-to-vehicle communications, and more.

Increasing Autonomous Test Fleet

Ford will triple its fleet of fully autonomous research and development vehicles, making it the largest fleet of said test vehicles in the industry. The automaker will add 20 additional Ford Fusion Hybrid test vehicles to the 10 vehicles being tested on roads in California, Arizona, and Michigan.

“With more autonomous vehicles on the road, we are accelerating the development of software algorithms that serve to make our vehicles even smarter,” said Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, Global Product Development, and chief technical officer, in a release.

The automaker will use the latest in advanced sensing systems, software, and hardware to develop the next generation of connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, improved customer experience, and data and analytics. Sensing systems include the first auto-specific Solid-State Hybrid Ultra PUCK Auto LIDAR sensors from Velodyne with a range of 200 meters. Other sensing systems include cameras, radar, and ultrasonic devices that are used in currently available driver assistance and active safety tech.

Smart-Car-to-Smart-Home Integration

Ford is also looking to link smart devices such as Amazon Echo and Wink to Ford SYNC so that consumers can control vehicle functions from home and control their home from their cars. Smart devices could start or stop a vehicle, lock or unlock doors, or check a vehicle’s fuel range from the house. Additionally, consumers could control their home’s lights, thermostats, security systems, and more during their commute.

“Consumers increasingly want to stay connected to their homes while on the move,” said Don Butler, Ford executive director, Connected Vehicle and Services, in a release. “Linking smart devices like Amazon Echo and Wink to vehicles via SYNC would fulfill that desire, and allow consumers to connect with their vehicles even when they aren’t behind the wheel.”

The automaker is working on integration of Ford SYNC Connect technology with Amazon cloud-based voice service Alexa via the Amazon Echo hands-free speaker and voice command device. Additionally, Ford is working with SYNC AppLink and Wink to control smart home functions including garage doors, lights, and unlocking doors.

Drone-to-Vehicle Integration

Ford is working with drone manufacturer DJI to develop drone-to-vehicle software that can be used in emergency situations such as United Nations first responders in the event of earthquakes or tsunamis in areas inaccessible to regular vehicles. The companies are working with Ford SYNC AppLInk or OpenXC software.

“At Ford, we are driving innovation in every part of our business to help make people’s lives better,” said Ken Washington, Ford vice president, Research and Advanced Engineering. “Working with DJI and the United Nations, there is an opportunity to make a big difference with vehicles and drones working together for a common good.”

The project would use a Ford F-150 pickup as the drone base station where the crew could control the drone via a Ford SYNC 3 touchscreen and AppLink. The drone could then map the area to give the responders a real-time picture of survivors. Additionally, integrating a smartphone between the vehicle and drone would allow the drone to return to the pickup as the vehicle moves on to another location.

Source: Ford