State Farm, Ford, U. of Mich. Unveil ‘Automated Research’ Car

AutomatedFordFusionHybridAmerica’s trek into driverless tech took another step this week as automaker Ford teamed with car insurer State Farm and the University of Michigan to unveil a vehicle that will be the basis for collaborative research.

According to an announcement from Ford, an automated variant of the Ford Fusion Hybrid will be used to test and develop vehicle features from “sensing systems” to “driver-assist technologies.”

The research is a part of Ford’s “Blueprint for Mobility,” which Bill Ford, the automaker’s executive chairman, announced last year as a launchpad campaign toward a “global transportation network” built on mobile technology.

Car-to-Car Technology Today, Fully Automated Driving Tomorrow

For its part, car insurer State Farm is pitching in crash-related research about “the impact of driver-assist technologies.” At question is what such technology can do for the rate of rear-end collisions.

Previous studies from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), a research facility funded by car insurers that regularly produces crash-related research and tests, has shown the wide impact that autonomous safety systems are having on crash claims.

State Farm said Ford’s testing of automated Fusion Hybrids will create more “intelligent vehicles” and “smarter drivers.”

“By teaming up … we are continuing our decades-long commitment to making vehicles, roadways and drivers safer,” Edward Rust, State Farm’s CEO and chairman, said in a statement. “The changes new technologies bring to our lives are exciting and we are always looking at how technology can better meet the ever-changing needs of our customers.”

Ford also laid out broad timelines for its research in its Thursday announcement.

The automaker’s research using the automated Fusion Hybrid will develop currently available vehicle technology, which includes features that alert drivers to traffic congestion and crashes and assist parking and “driving in slow-moving traffic,” according to Ford.

The research also aims to move some lesser-known car-to-car technology into mainstream use. Ford highlighted car “platooning,” an automated feature in which cars “sync up … to create denser driving patterns.”

“They will communicate with each other and the world around them, and become one element of a fully integrated transportation ecosystem,” Ford said in its statement. “[The] benefits will include improved safety, reduced traffic congestion and the ability to achieve major environmental improvements.”

More developed car-to-car technology is a welcome prospect among American drivers, according to a federal survey.

But Ford’s automated research vehicle will also explore a territory that hasn’t yet hit the streets for public use: the driverless car. Ford said it is aiming for “fully autonomous navigation and parking” as a long-term goal.

To that end, state and federal officials are already starting to carve out a foothold for companies that are developing the technology; a congressional subcommittee debated the issue last month in a hearing titled “How Autonomous Vehicles Will Shape the Future of Surface Transportation while California released its first regulations for testing driverless vehicles on public roads.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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