Autonomous vehicles is the buzzword in the car world these days and plenty of testing is currently being done, from Tokyo to California. Among others, Toyota and Nissan are trying out self-driving cars in Japan while Kia recently received a special licence by the state of Nevada to test its autonomous cars in the US state. Non carmakers like Google are also in the frame.

Now, Ford has secured California’s autonomous vehicle driving permit to begin testing the fully autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid on public roads next year. This is part of Ford’s 10-year autonomous vehicle development programme and a key element of Ford Smart Mobility, the plan to take the company to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, customer experience, and data and analytics.

Ford Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto is one of the largest automotive manufacturer research centres in the region, with a team of more than 100 engineers and scientists. A new research lab opened in January, expanding Ford’s presence in Silicon Valley that dates back to 2012. 80% of the Palo Alto team joined Ford from the tech sector; the remaining 20% are Ford employees from the US, China, Germany and Australia who bring automotive engineering and design expertise.

Research that has been conducted in Palo Alto this past year includes virtual interaction between an autonomous car and pedestrians, sensors that detect and track objects in the vehicle’s view, and camera-based pedestrian detection.