(TNS) -- Ford CEO Mark Fields said today the automaker plans to triple its engineering investment in driver assist and semi-autonomous vehicle technology over the next five years and unveiled an updated version of the Ford Kuga, a compact crossover sold in Europe.
Fields made the announcement at Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona, Spain — an annual technology conference. He did not specify a dollar figure or say where the increase in the engineering resources would be centered.
Fields said Ford's goal is to stay true to its heritage as an automaker that builds cars for the masses and develop an affordable self-driving vehicle.
"When the first Ford autonomous vehicle comes out, it will be an autonomous vehicle designed to serve millions of customers — not just for those who buy luxury vehicles," Fields said.
Earlier this year, Ford said it would add 20 Fusion Hybrid autonomous vehicles to its test fleet of self-driving cars, bringing the company's fleet to about 30 vehicles being tested on roads in California, Arizona and Michigan.
"At Ford, we’ve been focused on autonomous vehicles for more than a decade, and this year, we will have the largest autonomous test fleet among all automakers," Fields said.
Fields is among more than a dozen keynote speakers at Mobile World Congress, where companies ranging from Samsung to Facebook unveil their latest products. Today, Fields reiterated the company's mission to evolve into a "mobility company," or a company that provides transportation services and sells cars.
“As we look to the future, it is clear we are on the cusp of a revolution in mobility — from car sharing to autonomous driving to the customer experience,” Fields said.
Ford also picked the technology conference to reveal an updated version of its popular Kuga crossover, a sibling to the Ford Escape.
The face lifted Kuga has a new, more aggressive trapezoidal front grille and a more muscular, truck-like appearance. Ford also reshaped the back end with smaller taillights. The updated Kuga also includes a new, 1.5-litre diesel engine expected to deliver improved fuel efficiency.
Last year, Ford sold 102,000 Kugas in Europe, up by 19% compared with 2014.
©2016 the Detroit Free Press Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.