Ford Motor plans to launch its self-driving commercial business in 2022 with vehicles based on the Ford Escape Hybrid crossover, the company said Tuesday.
The vehicles are the automaker's fourth-generation self-driving test vehicles in partnership with Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based autonomous vehicle start-up. Ford and German automaker Volkswagen AG split an 80% majority stake in the company earlier this year.
Ford said the vehicles will begin testing this month alongside its current fleet of roughly 100 autonomous test vehicles that are based off the Fusion Hybrid sedan, which the company is no longer producing.
The next-generation vehicles include "launch-intent" technologies that are needed to support commercialization, according to John Davis, chief engineer of Ford's autonomous vehicle subsidiary.
"With our fourth-generation test vehicle, we have everything we need from a vehicle to stand up our self-driving service," Davis wrote in a Medium post Tuesday
The upgrades include higher resolution cameras, more capable radar sensors and more advanced Lidar technology, which uses lasers to map surrounding areas.
Ford plans to integrate the new vehicles into test fleets in Austin, Texas; Detroit; Miami; Palo Alto, California; Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.
Ford initially planned to launch a commercial self-driving vehicle business in 2021 but delayed it until 2022, citing delays due to the coronavirus pandemic. It also previously announced plans to use a purpose-built autonomous vehicle without manual controls such as a steering wheel and pedals for its commercial fleet.
A Ford spokesman on Tuesday confirmed that those plans remain intact but will be based on several factors, including safety, regulations and community acceptance of self-driving vehicles.