Following up tech giants like Google and Uber as well as automotive wunderkind Tesla, car industry stalwart Ford is moving full steam ahead with an autonomous vehicle of its own.
Announced amid the Michigan-based corporation's fifth annual trend conference "Further with Ford" in Silicon Valley this week, the car maker revealed it is moving its autonomous driving technology research plans upward to a full-scale advanced engineering program.
Of course, Ford isn't alone in this arena. Aside from the aforementioned would-be trailblazers, Nissan and Hyundai have both issued pledges of their own to develop self-driving cars. Speculation remains about whether or not Apple plans to follow suit.
Ford has appointed Randy Visintainer, a 29-year veteran with the company, as director of the global autonomous vehicle development team.
Visintainer's team will be tasked with building upon some of Ford's existing semi-autonomous driving functions as well as new sensors, algorithms and actuators in vehicles with the goal of building a fully automated car.
For example, already installed on the Ford Mondeo in Europe, Ford promised its Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection driver-assist technology will be available on a yet-unspecified vehicle in the United States as soon as next year.
Outside of Detroit, Ford's Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto, Calif. will continue to work on Ford's Smart Mobility portfolio for integrating connected apps and mobile devices to enhance the in-car experience.
Ford is also looking toward 3D printing to accelerate development even further through a partnership with Carbon3D.
The Redwood City, Calif.-based develops 3D printing and manufacturing solutions through what it describes as a "breakthrough technology."
Referred to as CLIP (Continuous Liquid Interface Production), the method is defined as growing parts using UV curable resins instead of printing them layer by layer.
The approach is boasted to issue full-scale parts at speeds as much as 25 to 100 times faster than conventional 3D printing processes. These speeds are achievable because the resins are said to be able to dampen vibrations and withstand higher temperatures.
Ford noted it has already utilized the CLIP method to produce elastomer grommets for the Ford Focus Electric and damping bumper parts for the Transit Connect.
"This technology enables us to quickly create automotive-grade parts for product design prototypes - and perhaps even production parts - faster than ever before, so we can deliver new vehicles to customers even sooner," said Raj Nair, Ford's group vice president of global product development, in prepared remarks.
For a closer look at Ford's collaborations with Carbon3D, check out the promo video below:
Images via Ford