Ford disbanded its Argo AI self-driving car joint venture with Volkswagen last year, but now it's getting back into autonomy … a bit.
The automaker has launched a new subsidiary, called Latitude AI, that's aimed at developing semi-autonomous advanced driver assistance systems that could be on the road soon.
Ford already offers the hands-free BlueCruise system, which uses cameras, radar, GPS and highly accurate maps that allow it to control a car within a highway lane by itself as long as the driver is watching the road and ready to take over in case of emergency. Facial recognition technology ensures that they are.
Latitude AI's goal is to further develop the system so that drivers not only will be able to stop paying attention, but even take a nap sometimes.
"We feel like that is such a big unlock for customers," Ford CEO Jim Farley told Fox News Digital.
"Think about your daily commute and being able to go to sleep in your car, whatever, on a sunny day on the highway."
Farley said the company determined that autonomous vehicles weren't going to be a money-making business anytime soon, but that customers are very interested in the tech that Latitude AI will be working on.
"We just passed 50 million miles of hands-free driving with BlueCruise, so the customer demand for these kinds of lower-stress driving highway systems is through the roof, something I’ve never seen in my career," Farley said.
"We just got more excited about that than a fully autonomous fleet of vehicles some day in the future."
The next generation tech is still in the early stages, and there's no timetable for it to be offered to customers, but the Latitude AI team includes hundreds of former Argo AI employees who will be bringing their experience to the project.
Along with the sensor systems used by BlueCruise, Farley believes lidar will play a key role in enabling the new capabilities, which will only be activated on pre-certified sections of road.
"We do think that lidar is critical … to make the system safer than a human."