There's little doubt that the future of cars has a lot to do with autonomous driving. This technology takes the steering wheel out of drivers' hands and promises machine-like efficiency, safety, and convenience. There are already hundreds of companies racing to create the perfect driverless car. Some are newcomers like Waymo and Tesla, while others are industry stalwarts like Ford ($F).

Ford, you say? The old boys from Dearborn who brought us the Mustang?

That's right - in late April, 2018 — right around the same time that Ford announced it would stop making traditional passenger cars — the company embarked on its most aggressive hiring spree for autonomous-driving experts.

As you see in the chart above, in March, 2018, Ford was hiring just 3 people in the space. As of today, that number has shot to 18, and it's entirely likely that nunber will continue to grow as Ford pivots into the future of automotive. In fact, Ford added two more positions to the list just last night.

Tim Stevens, Editor-in-Chief of Roadshow by CNET, believes this hiring spree is significant. "Ford was among the first of the major auto manufacturers to dive into autonomy research with both feet, an early partner with Velodyne to develop comprehensive sensor packages, and one of the first to show an autonomous car working in heavy snow," he told Thinknum Media.

"However, with Waymo bringing its fully driverless solution to market this year, while companies like Cadillac and Audi are already capitalizing on advanced driver assistance packages that give a taste of autonomy, Ford doesn't have much fruit to show for its labor. The development of this technology is a race, and with these hirings it looks like Ford's stepping on the gas."

Here's a look at the openings so far:

Ford "Autonomous Vehicle" and "AV" jobs as of May 23, 2018

Autonomous Vehicle Business (Associate OR Manager)

Autonomous Vehicle Connectivity – Systems Engineer

Autonomous Vehicle Customer Service Strategy Lead

Autonomous Vehicles and Controls - Control Algorithms

Autonomous Vehicles and Controls- Sensor Algorithms

Autonomous Vehicles and Controls-Systems and Functional Safety Eng

Autonomous Vehicles and Controls – Systems Testing and Development

Autonomous Vehicles & Controls - Control Decision/System Development

Autonomous Vehicles & Controls Engineer – Simulation

Autonomous Vehicles Module - Design & Release Engineer

Autonomous Vehicles Platform Systems Engineer

Autonomous Vehicles Product Manager

Autonomous Vehicle Systems/Safety Engineer

AV Pilots & Markets Analyst

AV Systems Engineer

Global Autonomous Vehicles Strategy Associate Director

Senior Associate/Manager, AV Partnerships

Sure looks like a team that's razor-focused on bringing Ford to the next level when it comes to driverless cars.

It's not entirenly surprising, though. Ford's desire to bolster its bullpen with autonomous-vehicle experts has been wideley known. In February, 2018, Ford made a very public announcement - press invites and all - that it was setting up shop in Miami to help flesh out its autonomous vehicle development plans. The announcement was preceeded by a new, massive investment to the tune of $1 billion in Argo AI ($PRIVATE:ARGO), a company that is already knee-deep in developing artificial-intelligence-controlled robots and vehicles.

The development of this technology is a race, and with these hirings it looks like Ford's stepping on the gas.

Ford also announced a partnership with Domino's Pizza in Ann Arbor to devlier pizzas via self-driving cars at the time, in a clear move to make Michigan residents aware that the company is still moving forward when it comes to technology.

The job openings appear to be based in Dearborn, Michigan or Palto Alto, CA rather than Miami, a sign that these positions are part of a more permanent corporate strategy shift rather than simply for PR or company optics.

In other words, Ford is taking driverless cars very seriously.

Ad placeholder