Ford establishes Latitude AI to develop autonomous driving technology
Automotive giant Ford has established a new subsidiary dedicated to autonomous driving systems for passenger vehicles.
The new firm, Latitude AI, comprises around 550 employees with expertise across machine learning, robotics, cloud platforms, mapping, sensors, compute systems, test operations, systems and safety engineering.
The majority of employees are formerly of Argo AI, a previous joint venture between Ford and Volkswagen that was announced to begin ceasing operations in October.
The decision to conclude Argo AI was made due to growing losses – amounting to billions – hitting both Ford and Volkswagen, as well as ongoing uncertainty surrounding when Level 4 autonomous driving technology would become commercially available.
Through its new wholly-owned subsidiary, Ford seeks to completely automate driving – hands-free, eyes-off-the-road – during particularly tedious and unpleasant situations, such as sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, or driving on long stretches of highway.
Ford’s current hands-free driving technology, BlueCruise, enables drivers to take their hands off the wheel on over 130,000 miles of prequalified North American roads. The technology – currently available in Ford’s Mustang Mach-E SUV, F-150 Truck, F-150 Lightning Truck and Expedition SUV models – has already accumulated more than 50 million miles of hands-free driving. It does however require the driver to keep their eyes on the road, which is ensured via a driver-facing camera.
“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 at 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 – with the goal of not only making travel safer, less stressful and more enjoyable, but ultimately over time giving our customers some of their day back."
Sammy Omari, executive director of ADAS Technologies at Ford, will also serve as the CEO of Latitude. “We believe automated driving technology will help improve safety while unlocking all-new customer experiences that reduce stress and in the future will help free up a driver’s time to focus on what they choose," he said. “The expertise of the Latitude team will further complement and enhance Ford’s in-house global ADAS team in developing future driver assist technologies, ultimately delivering on the many benefits of automation.”
Latitude is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with additional engineering hubs in Dearborn, Michigan and Palo Alto, California. The company will also operate a highway-speed test track facility in Greenville, South Carolina.