Last week Ford announced plans to pour billions of dollars into electric vehicles by the year 2020, and yesterday the automaker revealed its vision for driverless cars. During a press event at Ford’s Silicon Valley Research & Innovation Center, CEO Mark Fields pinned a California license plate on the company’s self-driving Fusion Hybrid and announced that trials for the vehicle will begin next year.

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Speaking at the event, Ford VP of Research and Advanced Engineering Ken Washington said that the company expects to have a fully-autonomous, self-driving car within the next four years. The project will be spearheaded by Ford’s Palo Alto-based Research & Innovation Center, which was established last year and has already filed 51 patents and announced over 100 invention disclosures. The center is currently working with local universities and 40 startups to develop autonomous driving algorithms, virtual testing systems, next-gen sensor technology, and object and pedestrian detection systems.

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Ford has been developing autonomous vehicles for more than 10 years, and the company’s new announcement marks the program’s progression from the research phase to the engineering phase. The company has received an autonomous driving permit and it plans to accelerate its self-driving vehicle platform while street testing on California roads. The Golden State has also issued driverless car permits to 11 other companies including Tesla, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Nissan, the Volkswagen group, and Google.

+ Research & Innovation Center