Ford's autonomous cars to begin CA road tests [Video]

Fully autonomous Fusions to hit CA roads in 2016.

Ford announced Wednesday that, as part of its accelerated smart mobility program, it will start running fully-autonomous vehicle trials in California next year.

The company has been running trials at the University of Michigan's simulated city (see below video) since November, but the California push will be the first real-world test for the company's small fleet of autonomous Fusion sedans.

Running in "Mcity," as the UM simulation is called, allowed Ford to test scenarios that were not safe to evaluate on public roads--such as running red lights--and to control the complexity and nuance of certain on-road conditions, but it's no substitute for the real thing.

In order to operate autonomous vehicles on California roads, Ford had to obtain a permit from the California Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program. Operations will be conducted out of the automaker's Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto, which houses substantial portions of Ford's autonomous- and connected-vehicle programs.

"We're attracting top talent from around the world to join our team in Silicon Valley, including employees from local technology companies and universities who want to make people's lives better by changing the way the world moves," said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO, in the announcement.

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