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Ford at CES: Self-driving car plans are not about 'marketing claims'

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Sam VarnHagen/Ford Motor Co./AP/File

(Read caption) Ford Motor Co.'s President and CEO, Mark Fields, delivers the opening keynote address at the International CES in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015.

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At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F] confirmed plans to build self-driving cars sometime in the near future.

"Our priority is not in making marketing claims or being in a race for the first autonomous car on the road," Ford CEO Mark Fields said in a speech at the show, but the company is definitely moving toward that goal.

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Ford chief technical officer Raj Nair noted that the company is already putting the building blocks for a fully-autonomous car into current production models, in the form of electronic aids like park assist, lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control.

The company is also testing a fully-autonomous Fusion Hybrid that uses added LIDAR (light-based range detection) sensors to "see" its surroundings.

Ford also announced the Smart Mobility Plan at CES. It's a buzzword-filled overall strategy for Ford's deployment of developing technologies in the realms of connectivity, vehicle autonomy, and data collection.

The Smart Mobility Plan will kick off with 25 "global mobility experiments" designed to help Ford anticipate what customers will want in future cars.

The experiments will take place primarily in major cities, with eight in North America, eight in Europe, seven in Asia, and one each in South America and Africa. Fourteen of them will be run by Ford itself, while the remaining 11 are part of the company's Innovate Mobility Challenge Series--which invites outside parties to solve transportation-related technical problems.

With projects staged in cities like New York, London, and Atlanta, the main focus will be on urban driving--including potential future scenarios where people more commonly share cars or where car use is more tightly integrated with public transportation.

While all of that is still pretty far off, Ford also used CES to launch its new Sync 3infotainment system, which will appear in showrooms later this year.