Archive for the ‘Ford’ Category

The best of the 2017 New York International Auto Show

April 14th, 2017

Jonathan Gitlin

NEW YORK—It seems like barely any time has passed since our last major auto show, but the world’s auto makers are back in Manhattan this week for the 2017 New York International Auto Show. You’ll be able to read (and watch) our take on many of the new vehicles on display in the coming days, but what follows are our picks for the best new models you’ll be able to see at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, starting today when the auto show opens to the public.

Outstanding in the Automotive Technology field: Cadillac Supercruise

Since this is a technology site, we’ll kick things off with the best new automotive technology of this year’s NYIAS. That honor belongs to Cadillac, which is joining the semi-autonomous driving fray with its new “level 2” system, called Supercruise. We have driven some pretty good semi-autonomous systems recently: Audi, Volvo, and Tesla all spring immediately to mind. These use a combination of adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assists to keep your car on track on the highway, backing up the human driver to counteract fatigue and provide a little digital helping hand on long drives. Supercruise combines those two driver assists with a few extra neat features that mark the next step on the road to fully self-driving vehicles.

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Ford’s billion-dollar self-driving car AI deal

February 10th, 2017

Enlarge / L-R: Peter Rander, Argo AI COO; Ken Washington, Ford vice president of research and advanced engineering; Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO; Bryan Salesky, Argo AI CEO; Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, product development, and chief technical officer; and Laura Merling, Ford Smart Mobility LLC vice president of autonomous vehicle solutions. Salesky and Rander are alumni of Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center and former leaders on the self-driving car teams of Google and Uber, respectively. (credit: Ford)

If you had to pick a single buzzword to define the auto industry of late, it would have to be “mobility.” Car companies are coming to grips with demographic and socioeconomic changes and the rise of the sharing economy and are moving beyond the old way of doing business, i.e., just building cars and selling them to customers. Ford has been on the leading edge of this trend, announcing in August last year that it plans to put an SAE level 4 autonomous vehicle into mass production as a ride-sharing service in 2021. Today, it announced that, as part of that plan, it is investing $1 billion over five years in a company called Argo AI, a startup led by the former leads of Google and Uber’s self-driving programs.

“The next decade will be defined by the automation of the automobile, and autonomous vehicles will have as significant an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did 100 years ago,” said Ford president and CEO Mark Fields. “As Ford expands to be an auto and a mobility company, we believe that investing in Argo AI will create significant value for our shareholders by strengthening Ford’s leadership in bringing self-driving vehicles to market in the near term and by creating technology that could be licensed to others in the future.”

This isn’t the first strategic investment in self-driving technology from the Blue Oval. As part of last August’s reveal, the company announced it was investing in lidar sensor-maker Velodyne and 3D-mapping company Civil Maps. Ford also purchased a machine-vision company called SAIPS and entered into a licensing agreement with another, Nirenberg Neuroscience.

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The 2018 Mustang will have driver assist tech, 10-speed transmission option

January 18th, 2017

Enlarge

On Tuesday, Ford announced its 2018 Mustang, a refresh from the previous generation that debuted in 2015. Although Ford couldn’t share important details like fuel economy and price, the Mustang refresh seems like a thoughtful one. It has driver assist technology, a more aerodynamic design, and performance upgrades for both the 2.3L EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, as well as its 5.0L V8 engine on the GT.

Ars spoke to Corey Holter, Ford’s Marketing Manager for Car and Cross Vehicle Marketing, about the updates to the car. He emphasized that the EcoBoost has been successful in bringing new customers into Ford’s mix, especially millennials, people of color, and women.

Before we saw the car, a spokesperson for Ford told us that the redesign of the interior and exterior of the 2018 Mustang would attract new female buyers, which admittedly put us on our guard. As a tech publication, we’re all-too-familiar with the old “pink washing” gambit used so often by phone companies—that markets a product to women by slashing its specs and pandering to a perceived “female” aesthetic.

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Video: Find out how technology is changing Ford with its CTO, Raj Nair

January 14th, 2017

DETROIT—One of the home team, Ford had a few things to announce at this year’s North American International Auto Show. Its best-seller, the F-150 truck, got a mid-life refresh, and the company announced that it’s finally reintroducing the smaller Ranger truck to the US in a couple of years. The Bronco SUV will be reborn, too, a year after that.

But some of the more interesting developments at the Blue Oval have been underway for a while now, as the company grows beyond car making into that ever-present buzzword, “mobility.” Ford is working on self-driving technology, a range of plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles, and ride-hailing services. It’s even found time to make a Le Mans-winning supercar. We sat down with Raj Nair, Ford’s Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President, Product Development, to find out a bit more about those different programs and how Ford’s business is changing:

We sit down with Ford’s Raj Nair at NAIAS. (video link)

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Ford: We’re canceling $1.6B Mexico facility, investing in electric and US plant

January 3rd, 2017

Enlarge / Prototype of the upcoming Transit Custom EV, which will be available in Europe by 2019 according to today’s event. (credit: Ford)

Today at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant, Ford Motor Company CEO Mark Fields unveiled a large-scale electric vehicle initiative that will run through the company’s next five years. Ford plans to invest $4.5 billion in electric vehicle production by 2020, and the company said it will produce 13 new electric vehicles, including a Mustang, an F-150, police cars, and a Transit Custom van. Additionally, Fields revealed that Ford would be canceling a previously announced $1.6 billion-production facility in Mexico. Instead, the company wants to invest $700 million in the existing Flat Rock facility, generating 700 new jobs focused on EV and autonomous initiatives at that location, according to Ford.

“Electrified vehicles have driven millions of miles and saved consumers millions on costs in fuels,” Fields said. “Now, imagine electrifying a pick-up truck for more productivity—or a commercial van, a police car. That’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Ford described seven of the 13 upcoming EVs during its press conference today. The F-150 Hybrid will be available by 2020 in North America and the Middle East, and Fields noted it’ll be powerful enough to stand-in for on-site generators in a pinch. The Mustang Hybrid will deliver “V8 power and even more low-end torque” according to Ford; it too is intended for a 2020 release. Generally, electric motors are well suited to applications where you want a lot of immediate torque, so their presence should work well in a light duty truck like the F-150. (Cars Technica Editor Jonathan Gitlin notes it will also probably make the electric Mustang pretty handy at the drag strip.)

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Ford hits milestone in path to steering-wheel-less, pedal-less autonomous cars

December 28th, 2016

Enlarge / Ford’s next-generation Fusion Hybrid autonomous test vehicle. (credit: Ford)

On Wednesday Ford announced that it would be testing a set of next-generation autonomous vehicles in 2017—a step along a path to building a market-ready, fully autonomous fleet for ride-hailing services by 2021. The automaker will triple the size of its test fleet in 2017, bringing the number of Ford research cars on US roads to 90.

Ford, like many traditional automakers, has been playing catch-up in the autonomous vehicle race after Google’s pioneering of the space and Tesla’s aggressive roll-out of its Advanced Driver Assist software. Where companies like Volvo are helping their customers stick their toes in the self-driving waters with systems that can take over driving on highways, Ford has decided it’s going to skip partial autonomy and go straight to the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) Level Four autonomy (PDF), or “High Automation,” where a driver does not need to intervene. Ford doesn’t intend to sell these cars to retail customers right away; instead it hopes to find customers in ride-hailing companies.

Ford says its next-generation autonomous test cars, all modified Ford Fusion Hybrids, will have two powerful lidar (light detection and ranging) sensors that “see” up to two football fields in any direction (this is down from four or five weaker lidar sensors in previous versions of Ford’s prototype cars). The Fusion Hybrids will also have three cameras on the roof of the car, a camera mounted under the windshield, and short- and long-range radar sensors to detect objects in inclement weather.

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Ford to mass-produce a completely self-driving car within five years

August 16th, 2016

On Tuesday, the Ford Motor Company became the latest car maker committed to putting a fully autonomous car into production in the next five years. “The world is changing, and it’s changing very quickly,” Ford CEO Mark Fields said. The company intends to build a high-volume car capable of SAE’s level 4 autonomy, but the target customer is not regular consumers—it’s ride-sharing services. “Starting in 2021, if you want to get around the city without the hassle of driving or parking, Ford’s new fully autonomous vehicle will be there for you,” Fields said.

The announcement took place in Palo Alto, outside Ford’s Silicon Valley Research and Innovation Center. As part of Ford’s future plans, that research center will double in size over the next 16 months. Although Fields cited the safety implications of autonomous cars—90 percent of traffic crashes are attributable to human error, after all—he was also enthusiastic about the possibility of making transportation more accessible to the elderly, disabled, and people too young (or too disinterested) to drive themselves.

Ford has designs on being more than an automaker, too; the company’s Smart Mobility pilot programs have been showing the way here. “We know there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all transportation solution,” Fields said, adding that ride-sharing would make more efficient use of vehicles, with less time wasted for people and less pollution.

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After victory at Le Mans, we catch up with Ford to talk about its GT

July 17th, 2016

Just as it was 50 years ago, the battle for sports car supremacy on the world’s race tracks this year has been between Ford and Ferrari. At this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, the two marques were head-and-shoulders ahead of their competition in the hotly contested GTE-Pro class (for racing versions of cars that you or I could buy). Ford emerged victorious, but the end of the race was somewhat acrimonious, with protests and counter-protests from both camps. We caught up with both teams at their next match up—the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen at Watkins Glen in upstate New York—both to check out their machinery and also to find the hatchet well and truly buried.

Back in 1966, after Henry Ford’s attempt to buy the Italian car company was rebuffed, his company built the legendary GT40, beating Ferrari’s V12-powered cars at Le Mans and most everywhere else. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of that match up, Ford decided to build (and race) a new mid-engined supercar, the Ford GT. The road-legal Ford GT won’t actually appear until 2017, but Ford’s rivals all gave their permission for the Blue Oval to start racing the car this year—the rules insist on a minimum of 500 production cars built in order to be eligible to race.

Ford has been running a quartet of GTs on track, a pair in the WeatherTech Sportscar Championship here in the US, and another pair contesting the World Endurance Championship. The cars aren’t just racing for glory either; Ford Performance (the division of the company responsible for the GT as well as the Shelby GT350 and Focus RS) is using the experience to develop and improve the road car ahead of production. We met with Mark Rushbrook, motorsports engineering manager at Ford Performance, to find out more.

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Packing a “voodoo” engine, the Shelby GT350 is Ford’s best-ever Mustang

April 19th, 2016

We drive the new Ford Shelby Mustang GT350, the Blue Oval’s most exciting road car for some time. Video edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

When Ford introduced the Mustang to a salivating public in 1964, it was quite the game-changer. It offered rakish, sports car styling at a highly attainable price—less than $2,400 at the time. But the Mustang had a dirty secret. Keeping costs down meant Ford raided its parts bin quite heavily. While the Mustang might have looked like it was going flat-out even when parked, it wasn’t actually much of a performance car. At least, it wasn’t until Caroll Shelby came along and turned it into the Shelby GT350.

The Mustang is now in its fifth generation, yet again looking like a million bucks. And 50 years since the original Shelby GT350s first took to the track in anger, the most exciting variant still wears the GT350 badge. The suspension is optimized for track work. There’s extensive use of lightweight components. It has special brakes and custom tires. The six-speed manual transmission is unique to the car. It’s not just lighter than a regular Mustang, it’s also stiffer. Oh, and under the hood is a very, very special engine.

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Q&A: Ford’s futurist knows kids today see status in their smartphones, not cars

February 29th, 2016

Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s in-house futurist. (credit: Ford Motor Company)

There can’t be many job titles out there cooler than “futurist.” And earlier this week, I sat down with Sheryl Connelly, who holds that position at the Ford Motor Company.

Connelly has been with Ford for two decades now, spending a few years in marketing before moving on to cover global trends and futuring 12 years ago. Her job isn’t to think about the cars and trucks of tomorrow, though. “The company has no shortage of subject matter experts in that area,” she told me. Rather, it’s her job to look beyond the industry, identifying how patterns and forces in the wider world will influence consumer behavior. “Those are typically slow-moving, deeply societal-rooted trends, things like aging population, increasing urbanization. But we also try to engage more with the public about micro trends (that last two to five years rather than two to five decades).”

Ford recently released its 2016 trends, a list built after a series of workshops and consultations with experts around the world. Connelly said that when work began on the current collection last year, she saw there was a lot of disillusionment out there—the economy, a rise in global violence, widespread attention to police misconduct here in the US, and so on.

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