Ford to build self-driving cars, creating thousands of new jobs in Silicon Valley

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Ford announced ambitious plans to mass produced, fully autonomous vehicles that will hit the road by 2021. The company plans to double its Palo Alto work force by the end of next year to meet their target.

Ford set an ambitious goal on Tuesday, announcing plans to have fully autonomous vehicles on the road five years from now,

America's number two automaker says they will have mass produced, fully autonomous vehicles that will hit the road by 2021.

"That means there's going to be no steering wheel, there's not going to be a gas pedal, there's not going to be a brake pedal, and of course, a driver is not going to be required," explained Mark Fields, President and CEO of Ford.

The vehicles will be for ride-sharing and ride-hailing services, not for individual drivers. Ford labels them first-generation autonomous vehicles, giving the public a chance to see and use them.

"We think we'll get the cost down. It'll become available for personal use, but the fact that it's in this ride service at a very affordable per-mile level, I think will expose this to a lot of people," said Raj Nair, Ford's CTO.

Ford identified the elderly, the handicapped and those who don't want to drive cars as likely users.

"They're saying we're going to provide mobility using our car, and they're going to do it faster than anyone else. That's actually a really big deal," said Doug Davenport, founder and CEO of Prospect Silicon Valley.

To make this happen in five years, Ford will double its Palo Alto work force by the end of next year. It has acquired two more buildings, creating a campus. Ford's partners are also going to feel pressure to deliver.

"We as a software company are already working on these technologies. I think the goal is just to make sure that what Ford needs is what's going to be on our road map as well," Manuela Papadopol, with Elektrobit.

In another key move, Ford also is joining Baidu, a Chinese company, to invest $150 million in Morgan Hill's Velodyne.

"We create the eyes of the vehicle, and once you can see, you still have to interpret, so a two-year-old can see, but you have to take that data and make logical decisions," explained Mike Jellen, Velodyne President and CEO.

The race is on with 21 other automakers working on autonomous vehicles in Silicon Valley.
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