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Published on September 22nd, 2016 | by James Ayre


Ford Researchers Being Embedded At University Of Michigan For Autonomous Driving Research, 1st Ever Such Arrangement

September 22nd, 2016 by  

Ford researchers are slated to be embedded at the University of Michigan in a new partnership focused on autonomous driving technology development, in what the company claims is the first ever such arrangement.

The partnership will see Ford researchers working directly with, and alongside of, University of Michigan researchers in the same academic building — the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC). Eventually, they will work in a state-of-the-art robotics laboratory on the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus slated to open in 2020.


As a reminder, Ford is currently aiming to have “fully autonomous SAE-defined level 4-capable vehicles available for high-volume commercial use in 2021.” The new partnership is part of the effort to achieve that.

“Ford engineers and researchers will begin working shoulder-to-shoulder with U-M faculty and students to test and learn about autonomous vehicle technology and innovation,” stated Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO. “We are aiming to show the world what we can achieve when leaders in business and academia work together to make people’s lives better.”


The press release provides more: “Ten years into the Ford–University of Michigan Innovation Alliance, the two parties have agreed Ford will lease the fourth floor of the new robotics laboratory. It is an approximately 140,000-square-foot building on Hayward Street, east of the university’s Space Research Building. The planned robotics laboratory will have space where machines walk, fly, drive, and swim. The building will house labs, offices, and classrooms, continuing a tradition of robotics leadership at U-M that includes the creation of MABEL, the world’s fastest-running robot with knees.”

It certainly seems like one of the top universities for Ford to partner with in order to be on the cutting edge of autonomous driving.

Continuing: “By locating a team of more than 100 employees on campus, Ford benefits from being close to technical leaders as well as facilities, such as Mcity — a one-of-a-kind urban simulation test environment in Ann Arbor. … Today, Ford and U-M also announce professors Matthew Johnson-Roberson and Ram Vasudevan will serve as leaders of a new autonomous vehicle research team comprising graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and researchers. Both professors, who began collaborating with Ford earlier this summer, bring a wealth of autonomous vehicle research experience. Dr Johnson-Roberson is an assistant professor of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, and has worked in autonomous vehicles since the first DARPA Grand Challenge in 2004. His research focuses on robotic systems perception. Dr Vasudevan is an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering with a background in robotics and next-generation automotive technologies.”

Sounds like a serious research team. You can tell that Ford is serious about autonomous driving technology. Too bad it doesn’t seem to be putting the same resources into the development of a long-range electric vehicle. Or maybe it is secretly doing so behind the scenes.

Images via Ford


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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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