Ford bought a robotics company to boost its self-driving cars

Quantum Signal helped develop autonomous vehicles for the military.

Back in April, Ford chief Jim Hackett admitted that the company overestimated the arrival of self-driving cars. He added that the applications of Ford's first autonomous fleet will likely be narrow, "because the problem is so complex." Now, the automaker has acquired a Michigan-based company called Quantum Signal to help it solve those problems and advance its goal of launching a self-driving vehicle business. Quantum Signal may not be a household name, but it played an important role in helping the US military develop software that can control its robotics vehicles from thousands of miles away.

In particular, the military's robotics program used the company's ANVEL robotic vehicle simulation software to explore the performance of unmanned systems. Also, Quantum Signal developed algorithms that guided the military's autonomous vehicles.

In his announcement, Ford Chief Technical Officer Randy Visintainer said the company's expertise will give the automaker a way to create comprehensive simulation environments that it can use to test its autonomous vehicles. Quantum Signal's expertise in sensing and perception systems will be put to good use, as well.

"All of [the company's] work can be repurposed to support Ford's self-driving vehicles to help improve their ability to analyze the environment around them," he wrote. In other words, Quantum Signal will support Ford in various areas. The QS team, which will be joining the automaker, will work on both software development and hardware prototyping to help ensure that Ford can truly deploy its first self-driving car fleet in 2021.