San Francisco (AFP) - Ford on Tuesday said that it has a green light to test self-driving cars in California, and should have them on roads in the most populous US state next year.
The car maker officially enrolled in the California Autonomous Vehicle Testing Program and will begin with self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrid sedans, it said in a release.
Ford boasted having more than 100 researchers, engineers, and scientists working in its research center in the Silicon Valley city of Palo Alto.
Ford researchers, who also collaborate with universities, specialize in technologies that help cars "see" or sense what is around them and safely navigate.
"Our Palo Alto team has grown significantly this year, using research and innovation to explore and develop future mobility solutions,” said Ford chief executive Mark Fields.
Ford announced earlier this year that it was nearing a production phase for its first self-driving vehicle, without specifying a precise timeline.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Law Vegas in January, Fields predicted fully autonomous cars would be on US roads by 2020, but declined to say whether his company would be among the first to market.
Google has been testing self-driving cars on California roads for a while, and an array of automobile makers including Audi, Mercedes, Lexus, Tesla and BMW are working on building self-driving capabilities into vehicles.