Exterior Color: Black
Interior Color: Red
Model: Other Pickups
Number of Cylinders: 8
Warranty: Vehicle does NOT have an existing warranty
Drive Type: 2 wheel drive
Lake Park, Minnesota, United States
In testing the durability of its upcoming fullsize Transit vans, Ford has begun using autonomous robotic technology to pilot vehicles through the punishing courses of its Michigan Proving Grounds test facility. The autonomous tech allows Ford to run more durability tests in a single day than it could with human drivers, as well as create even more challenging tests that wouldn't be safe to run with a human behind the wheel.
The technology being used was developed by Utah-based Autonomous Solutions, and isn't quite like the totally autonomous vehicles being developed by companies like Google and Audi for use out in the real world. Rather, Ford's autonomous test vehicles follow a pre-programmed course and their position is tracked via GPS and cameras that are being monitored from a central control room. Though the route is predetermined, the robotic control module operates the steering, acceleration and braking to keep the vehicle on course as it drives over broken concrete, cobblestones, metal grates, rough gravel, mud pits and oversize speed bumps.
Scroll down to watch the robotic drivers in action, though be warned that you're headed for disappointment if you expect to see a Centurion behind the wheel (nerd alert!). The setup looks more like a Mythbusters experiment than a scene from Battlestar Galactica.
Ford began manufacturing cars in Australia in 1925 with the Model T. In 2016, Ford will stop manufacturing cars Down Under, including the Falcon and the Territory SUV. Ford Australia CEO Bob Graziano has reportedly confirmed the closure of the company's Broadmeadows assembly plant and the Geelong engine plant, both in the state of Victoria. There will be 650 jobs lost at Broadmeadows, 510 sacrificed at Geelong. Of the roughly 3,000 workers the Blue Oval has in Australia, it's said it will try to retain about 1,000 of them at its R&D and product development facilities.
The writing hasn't just been on the wall, it's been a regular item in all the papers and on Ford's bottom line for years. As recently as 2003, Ford sold nearly 75,000 Falcons, but over the next four years, annual sales dropped by something like 10,000 units, and over the last two years, it has sold less than 20,000 per year. It isn't only Ford that has suffered - sales of the other large, locally produced sedan, the Holden Commodore, have also gone over the precipice, triggering the same kind of angst about Holden's continued existence. Ford is the smallest of Australia's local automakers, Holden and Toyota the others, and has posted losses of $AUD141 million last year ($136M US) and $AUD600 million ($580M US) in the past five years. Graziano said the cost of manufacturing is simply too expensive in the country, twice as high as Europe and three times as high as Asia, and there no way to make a business case for staying in the country.
In January 2012, Ford Australia announced it would stay in the country until at least 2016, but by July of the same year, most outside observers were quietly declaring that 2016 would be the last year of Ford Down Under, and even the speculation was making other observers nervous. Ford received money from the Victorian government last year to aid its refresh of the Falcon and Territory, which will continue on schedule for the 2014 model year. A front- and all-wheel-drive sedan on a global platform is predicted to replace the Falcon, with some other SUV expected to replace the Territory. The company says it still intends to expand its lineup in the country.
The 2014 Ford Fiesta is in showrooms now with refreshed styling and new performance ST model, but it's what isn't yet available that should help the Fiesta stand out from the growing crowd of subcompacts. Aside from the new 1.0-liter EcoBoost model coming later this year, Ford recently told us that a new Fiesta SFE trim level is on the way that should put the updated Fiesta at the top of its class for fuel economy.
The new Fiesta SFE will hit an estimated 41 miles per gallon on the highway when equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission. The current listing on fueleconomy.gov shows the 2014 Fiesta getting up to 29 mpg city and 39 highway, but the SFE will get minor aero tuning and a recalibrated engine controller to help bump the highway figure past rivals like the Chevrolet Sonic and Nissan Versa - both of which top out at 40-mpg highway. There's still no word as to when the small 1.0-liter EcoBoost will show in the US, but Ford has indicated that engine's fuel economy isn't expected to be released until October.