Ford’s Fourth-Gen Self-Driving Test Vehicle Set To Roll Out This Month

Ford (F) has released further details of its upcoming self-driving vehicles, with its fourth-generation self-driving test vehicle beginning to roll out as soon as this month.

Ford and Argo AI‘s self-driving test vehicle is built on the Escape Hybrid platform and features sensing and computing technology.

The systems in Ford’s newest test vehicles are “launch-intent” in terms of the components needed to support commercialization. In other words, Ford says its team can continuously test and refine performance over the coming years to better prepare for launch.

The company revealed that it has upgraded the vehicle’s sensing capabilities with more advanced LiDAR, higher resolution cameras and more capable radar sensors.

Combined, this helps improve detection of fixed and moving objects on all sides of the Escape, providing a blind spot curtain, detecting things like a passing car or a bicyclist in a nearby bike lane, says Ford.

It has also included an underfloor liquid-cooled battery design, and has modified the Escape Hybrid’s high voltage battery with additional battery cells- which should help to reduce gasoline consumption.

Finally, the sensor cleaning system has been refined based on on-road testing with previous-generation test vehicles. Keeping sensors clean is very important to ensure vehicles can better “see” the world around them.

“As they become ready for deployment, we will gradually integrate these fourth-generation vehicles into our multi-city testing efforts alongside our Fusion Hybrids in Austin, Detroit, Miami, Palo Alto, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C” states John Davis, Chief Engineer of Ford Autonomous Vehicles.

Shares in F rose 2% on Tuesday, and are trading 0.65% higher in today’s pre-market trading. On year-to-date basis, the stock is down 17%, and analysts have a cautiously optimistic Moderate Buy consensus on Ford’s outlook. That’s alongside an $8 average analyst price target, indicating modest upside potential of 5% from current levels.

Encouragingly, Benchmark analyst Mike Ward has just upgraded F from hold to buy with a Street-high price target of $10. “Better than expected North American production, a positive shift in mix, and improving metrics in the auto credit markets, in our view, are the primary drivers for better than expected earnings performance in the third quarter,” Ward told investors.

And looking further ahead, the analyst is also optimistic. “By our estimates, inventory will end the year about 100,000 units below target, proving a tailwind for earnings into the second half of 2021” he added. (See F stock analysis on TipRanks)

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