Ford Motor Co (F.N) is hiking investments in Silicon Valley technology firms and more than doubling the size of its Palo Alto, California, research team to help speed development of self-driving cars, the automaker said on Tuesday.
Ford and Baidu Inc (BIDU.O), China’s largest internet company, have jointly invested $150 million in Velodyne, which makes laser-based sensors that are a major building block in self-driving cars.
Earlier this year, Ford invested in another Silicon Valley firm, Civil Maps, which is developing advanced mapping for self-driving vehicles.
At the annual Consumer Electronics Show in January, Ford said it planned to triple the size of its self-driving test fleet this year as part of its larger Smart Mobility initiative.
The Ford test cars use Velodyne lidar sensors to help detect objects and obstacles and provide mapping data. Lidar is intended to supplement radar, cameras and ultrasonic sensors in self-driving vehicles.
Ford Chief Executive Officer Mark Fields told CNBC television on Tuesday that the automaker is doubling the size of its Silicon Valley research team in Palo Alto to more than 300.
Baidu in April said it had established a self-driving car team in nearby Sunnyvale, California, focusing on development of such enabling technologies as computer vision, robotics and machine learning.
Baidu last year announced a partnership with German automaker BMW (BMWG.DE) to develop self-driving vehicles in China. It plans to begin testing them in the United States this year.