Latitude's formation underscores the company's focus on automated technologies that support human drivers in personally owned vehicles.
But the company has its roots in self-driving technology: Its 550-person staff will largely be comprised of the 550 employees Ford hired from Argo AI, the self-driving startup that folded last October.
When Ford pulled its support from Argo, it said it had decided to concentrate on the types of automated systems that support human drivers rather than eliminate their role in the driving process.
While there are many technical similarities between the self-driving systems Argo developed and the driver-support systems Latitude is tasked with building, there is a stark, fundamental difference: One was designed for no human involvement, one will integrate human involvement.
Latitude begins with that premise of the latter: the Pittsburgh-based company will focus on developing automation categorized as SAE Levels 2 and 3 for next-generation Ford vehicles. One of its initial tasks will be to develop a hands-free, eyes-off-the-road system, Ford said Thursday.
“We see automated driving technology as an opportunity to redefine the relationship between people and their vehicles,” Doug Field, chief advanced product development and technology officer at Ford, said.
Sammy Omari, executive director of advanced driver-assist technologies at Ford, will be CEO of Latitude. Peter Carr has been appointed chief technology officer of the subsidiary, and David Gollob will serve as its president.
Based in Pittsburgh, with other engineering hubs in Palo Alto, California, and Dearborn, Michigan, the 550-member team will focus on machine learning, robotics, software and other underpinnings of assisted driving and conditional automation, Ford said.
The subsidiary’s formation marks an expansion from the automaker’s ongoing efforts in those areas. Ford already partners with Mobileye in the advanced driver-assistance realm, and the two have worked together on Ford’s BlueCruise system, which Consumer Reports ranked as the best-available driver assistance system on the market in January.
Drivers already have accumulated more than 50 million miles of hands-free driving using BlueCruise, Ford said Thursday.
By contrast, no self-driving vehicles are on sale for consumers today. Ford CEO Jim Farley said self-driving vehicles, in which humans have no role in the driving process, were “a long way off” when he revealed plans to end support of now-defunct Argo last October.