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Ford Motor Company Joins With Baidu to Invest in Self-Driving Tech

Ric Pa Autonomous Fusion

In further to a investment in sensor builder Velodyne, Ford announced a large enlargement of a Palo Alto research core on Tuesday. Image source: Ford Motor Company.

Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) says it will double down on a investigate core in Silicon Valley — and it has assimilated Chinese search-engine hulk Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) in taking a interest in a association that creates sensors vicious to self-driving cars.

What Ford said

The Blue Oval pronounced on Tuesday that it will enhance a Palo Alto investigate center, adding dual new buildings and doubling a worker count during a trickery from 130 employees now to 260 by a finish of subsequent year.  

Also on Tuesday, Silicon Valley sensor association Velodyne LiDAR announced that it had finished an investment turn in that Ford and Baidu any invested $75 million. The investment will be used to make a company’s sensors cheaper to manufacture, that it hopes will accelerate a adoption of self-driving technology. Like Ford, Baidu is developing self-driving technology that uses Velodyne’s sensors. 

Why a Velodyne investment is a poignant pierce for Ford

Velodyne specializes in “LiDAR” sensors, for “Light Detection and Ranging.” LiDAR is a sensor record that uses invisible lasers to erect rarely minute maps of a vehicle’s surroundings. It’s approaching to be an essential member of a sensor systems that will be used in entirely unconstrained cars. But until recently, a sensors were too costly to be used in mass-market vehicles.

That’s changing. Velodyne has grown a series of tiny LiDAR sensors it thinks it will be means to mass-produce affordably. (CEO Mark Fields showed off one of a compress Velodyne sensors during a Consumer Electronics Show in January.) It refers to a tiny sensors as “pucks,” a idea to their distance and shape. 

Velodyne Puck

Velodyne’s VLP-32A “ULTRA Puck” sensor, named for a hockey-puck-like figure and size, is a tiny LiDAR sensor grown with automotive mass prolongation in mind. Image source: Velodyne.

Velodyne expects that this latest investment will assistance accelerate a efforts to reduce prolongation costs. “This investment will accelerate a cost rebate and scaling of Velodyne’s industry-leading LiDAR sensors, creation them widely permitted and enabling mass deployment of entirely unconstrained vehicles,” Velodyne CEO David Hall pronounced in a statement. “We are dynamic to assistance urge a idea of reserve for automotive vehicles as shortly as possible, as good as commission a potency unconstrained systems offer.”

As for Ford, it’s another pointer that a association is aggressively posterior self-driving record for a mass market. “From a unequivocally commencement of a unconstrained car program, we saw LiDAR as pivotal enabler due to a intuiting capabilities and how it complements radar and cameras,” Ford tellurian product arch Raj Nair pronounced in a statement. “Ford has a long-standing attribute with Velodyne and a investment is a transparent pointer of a joining to creation unconstrained vehicles accessible for consumers around a world.”

The investment is also a approach for Ford to uncover investors and analysts that it’s subsidy adult a settled skeleton to renovate into an “automotive and mobility company.” Old opposition General Motors (NYSE:GM) has tender analysts in new months with a unequivocally manifest joining to bringing self-driving record to market. GM put $500 million into a ride-hailing association Lyft and acquired a San Francisco start-up (Cruise Automation) with expertise in self-driving technology

Ford’s Palo Alto trickery is focused on self-driving tech

Ford’s pierce to enhance a Palo Alto investigate core is also significant. Over a final year, a core has turn a pivotal heart of Ford’s efforts to rise self-driving technology. The association perceived a assent from a state of California late final year that allows it to test a antecedent self-driving cars on open roads. 

Ford sees a Palo Alto trickery as vicious to a ongoing high-tech transformation. “We unequivocally wish to be a partial of a [Silicon Valley tech] community,” Fields pronounced when a core was initial non-stop final year. “We perspective ourselves both as an automotive association and a mobility company.”

What’s next: More self-driving news from Ford?

There might be some-more news to come from Ford on Tuesday. Fields and Nair are scheduled to give a display during a Palo Alto core after today. It’s approaching that they will yield some-more sum on Ford’s ongoing self-driving investigate and growth efforts — including, possibly, a date when Ford will move a record to market. 

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