Ford has unveiled its new AI-focused subsidiary, Latitude, focusing on “hands-free, eyes-off-the-road” autonomous driving solutions.
Ford CEO Jim Farley has previously stated that there is no better product to sell to consumers than time; more time with family, more time to relax, etc. And he has made it clear that he intends to do just that by selling vehicles with autonomous driving capabilities. Ford’s new subsidiary, Latitude, will work on that problem.
Ford claims that drivers spend “nearly 100 hours a year sitting in traffic,” an unpleasant, stressful, and time-consuming activity that benefits nobody. In response, Ford introduced its BlueCruise level 2 autonomous driving solution, which has already accumulated over 50 million miles since launch, but Ford’s ambitions are higher.
The Blue Oval’s newest venture, Latitude, is focused on level 3 autonomous driving, allowing a driver to let go of the wheel and completely take their eyes off the road.
“We see automated driving technology as an opportunity to redefine the relationship between people and their vehicles,” said Doug Field, chief advanced product development and technology officer of Ford. “Customers using BlueCruise are already experiencing the benefits of hands-off driving. The deep experience and talent in our Latitude team will help us accelerate the development of all-new automated driving technology…”
This isn’t Ford’s first entry into level 3 autonomy, but it will hopefully be its most successful. Ford’s previous venture, working with Volkswagen Group, much like GM’s Cruise subsidiary, was focused on creating a LiDAR/AI-based autonomous taxi service that could serve customers in America’s largest cities. However, that initial project failed, with the American automaker selling off its share late last year.
Ford is far from the only legacy automaker focusing on introducing autonomous driving to the mass market. Long-time competitor General Motors operates both the aforementioned Cruise taxi service and its own proprietary software, Super Cruise. However, Stellantis, lagging behind its big-three siblings, has yet to invest similarly.
Clear leaders in the field of autonomy have already appeared in the United States. Tesla has taken the market by storm with its Autopilot and more advanced Full-Self-Driving systems. Simultaneously, another upmarket competitor, Mercedes-Benz, has become the first company to operate level 3 autonomous vehicles in the States, backed by a promise of legal liability.
In short, Ford is far from leading the category in terms of autonomy, but with so many automakers yet to invest, Ford is part of a select few headed on a clear path forward. Hopefully, that mindset, and its new subsidiary, will allow the historic company to compete well in the coming years.
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