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Ford To Unveil Drone Project, Expand Driverless Vehicle Initiative

The automaker is not commenting on reports it's partnering with Google on self-driving cars, but has plenty to say about the "connected car."

Ford To Unveil Drone Project, Expand Driverless Vehicle Initiative
[Photo: courtesy of Ford]

Imagine using Amazon Echo to start your F-150 truck, scan through your favorite playlist on Spotify as you use Apple Maps to meet your friends at a restaurant, and then open your garage door and raise the temperature on your home thermostat as you pull into the driveway.

That's the promise of the connected vehicle, as per all the developments to be announced by Ford today at week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Though the automaker is not commenting on reports that it's partnering with Google to build driverless cars, Ford will be revealing the next stage of its Smart Mobility plan, accelerating its testing of autonomous vehicles and targeting drone-to-vehicle technology to improve emergency services.

Among the new developments, Ford will be:

  • Tripling its fleet of Fusion Hybrid autonomous research cars (from 10 to 30)—the largest in the industry —and using Velodyne's new Solid-State Hybrid Ultra PUCK Auto sensor to map and simulate the surrounding environment.
  • Teaming up with drone maker DJI to announce a $100,000 challenge to software developers who can create drone-to-vehicle communications that use Ford SYNC AppLink. The goal is to one day enable the United Nations Development Program to inspect inaccessible emergency zones around the world.
  • Developing ways to link smart devices like Amazon Echo and Wink to its vehicles to "allow consumers to control lights, thermostats, security systems, and other features of their homes from their car, and to stop, start, lock, unlock, and check their vehicle's fuel range from the comforts of their couch."
  • Launching 25 research experiments around the world to "anticipate what customers will want and need in tomorrow's transportation ecosystem." One of them is a "dynamic social shuttle": a minibus that offers point-to-point pickup and drop-off on demand in New York and London.
  • Introducing SYNC 3, Ford's new faster and more intuitive communications and entertainment system that features enhanced response to drive commands.

To learn more about what Ford is revealing at CES 2016, check out this video to hear from the CEO himself.

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