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New Fords drive themselves off the production line

by Marco van der Hoeven

Ford is testing AI technology for automated driving to make the production process even more efficient. For this project, the new cars not only drive themselves off the production line but also to the final checkpoint. Then, they charge themselves and park themselves for transport to the customer.

The E-SELF project is one of Ford’s initiatives in preparation for the Ford Cologne EV Centre in Germany, where EV production will start soon. The investment in this factory amounts to $2 billion.

“Ford is redefining its European model range. Research into the optimal production process for our EVs is an integral part of this,” says Frank Schwarz, project manager at Ford. “The application of automated driving technology in the production process provides more efficiency and safety, while employees can focus fully on other important tasks.”

Last month, Ford unveiled the new, fully electric Explorer. It is the first electric passenger car that will be produced on a large scale at the Ford Cologne EV Centre. Ford aims to sell 600,000 electric cars annually in Europe by 2026. By 2030, Ford aims to offer a fully electric range of passenger cars in Europe.

In cooperation with the Institute of Automotive Engineering at the Technische Universität Braunschweig and Kopernikus Automotive, Ford is conducting tests for two and a half years. The German Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Protection is supporting this project financially with 2 million euros.

The E-SELF project uses communication between vehicle and infrastructure to control and monitor the cars. Sensors in the factory detect potential hazards on the car’s route, such as a person or another car. The self-driving cars are then slowed down or brought to a stop depending on the situation.

At least twelve rides between different locations are involved in the final checks alone. Then, the cars are parked for further transport by road, rail, and water. Making these trips independently with AI technology is possible with all models with an automatic transmission, electronic stability control, electronic parking brake, and steering assistance. The only additional equipment required for this technology is a communication module that enables interaction with the infrastructure.

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