Ford Motor Company has bought Quantum Signal, a specialist company with expertise in mobile robotics for military applications, to support its goal of launching a self-driving vehicle business.
Founded in 1999, Quantum Signal helped the military develop software that allowed it to remotely control robotic vehicles from thousands of miles away. It built a robust simulation environment capable of testing autonomous vehicle designs that is still in use today.
Randy Visintainer, chief technical officer, Ford Autonomous Vehicles, said: “While Quantum Signal has operated in relative obscurity over the past couple of decades, its work has been on our radar at Ford for a while now.
“Over the past few years, Ford has been assembling a team of uniquely qualified experts in software development, simulation and machine learning from all around the world as it accelerates autonomous vehicle development — and we’re proud to announce the squad is getting even bigger and more formidable.”
Ford has said it will make use of Quantum Signal’s experience in real-time simulation and algorithms to develop its Transportation as a Service (TaaS) platform, as well as vehicle controls that support the customer experience, functional safety and other vehicle systems.
The automaker said the wide range of the group’s work portfolio means it will be able to support Ford in numerous areas as the company develops self-driving vehicles and transportation as a service business, including software development and hardware prototyping.
Quantum Signal is renowned for its Autonomous Navigation Virtual Environment Laboratory (ANVEL) modeling and simulation environment, which has been used by military robotics programs to explore the performance of unmanned remote and autonomous systems.
Ford plans to use this to develop more comprehensive simulation environments in which to test its vehicles and the company’s business model in order to achieve further performance improvements.
Beyond simulation, Quantum Signal has done extensive work for the military in developing algorithms that help guide autonomous vehicles. Outside the software world, the company is well-versed in robotics as well as sensing and perception systems. All of this work can be repurposed to support Ford’s self-driving vehicles to help improve their ability to analyze the environment around them.
Visintainer explained: “Operating out of a former school building in Saline, Quantum Signal has cultivated its own unique culture that we want to preserve as the team joins Ford and grows in the future. This is something we’re confident we can do because we’ve done it before — and we’re currently doing it again with a machine learning company that joined Ford almost three years ago, SAIPS.”
Based in Israel, SAIPS is working closely with both Ford and the team at Argo AI, using machine learning to create a visual cognition system for self-driving cars that can detect vehicles or pedestrians in the surrounding environment — including their blinking turn signals and hazard lights — even under severe weather and lighting conditions.
Another core system enables fully automated, high-resolution 3D mapping of urban environments, something that plays a crucial role in allowing self-driving vehicles to situate themselves in the real world.
Visintainer added: “Since joining Ford, SAIPS has more than doubled its size to approximately 30 people and moved into new headquarters in Tel Aviv. Most recently, SAIPS welcomed aboard some of the world’s leading researchers in a field called reinforcement learning, which could foster learning and decision-making in self-driving vehicles with less human supervision.
“Just like SAIPS, Quantum Signal will play a crucial role in advancing Ford’s self-driving vehicle development while also representing the company’s commitment to nurturing the talent needed to successfully deploy this technology,”