The Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle is taking to the streets as the company has enrolled in the California Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program which will enable the automaker to test the model on public roads.

The testing program will be based out of the company's Palo Alto Research and Innovation Center which has rapidly expanded from 15 employees to a team of more than 100 researchers, engineers and scientists.  While 20 percent of the team consists of Ford employees with automotive engineering and design expertise, the remaining 80 percent are from the technology sector and bring their own unique skills and knowledge to the program.

The company will begin testing autonomous vehicles on public roads next year and the Palo Alto Research and Innovation Center is the perfect location to conduct the tests as the facility has already conducted autonomous vehicle virtual test drives. Ford says this helped the company study the "virtual interaction between an autonomous car and pedestrians, replicating real-world situations to better understand and develop responses to some of the unexpected things that can happen on the road."

Ford is also testing the Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle at the University of Michigan's Mcity which is a 32-acre site featuring a full-scale simulated urban environment that includes everything you would expect in a 'real' city including multi-lane roads, roundabouts and a variety of different road surfaces.

Gallery: Autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid to begin testing in California

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