WASHINGTON - Ford is to work with two top American universities to further research into automated driving technology with a production target of 2025.The automaker said it would work with Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the "technical challenges" facing autonomous (self-driving) road vehicles which use automated systems for some previously human driving functions.Ford's chief operating officer Mark Fields made the announcement at the opening of the annual Washington Auto Show at which his company showed its automated Ford Fusion Hybrid research car.DRIVER SUPERVISIONFields said: "In the long term we see a future of connected cars that communicate with each other and with the world around them to improve safety, reduce traffic congestion and achieve major environmental benefits."It's likely to bring fully autonomous navigation and parking."The research car, Fields said, could operate on its own with the supervision of a driver. Loaded with technology that operates much like a bat or dolphin using sound waves, the car can sense moving objects - among them people, pedestrians, cars and animals.Ford said the MIT research would focus on ways to predict the actions of other vehicles and pedestrians to allow the calculation of a safe path to avoid them. Stanford would explore how a vehicle might maneuver to allow sensors to "see" around obstructions.VEHICLES NEED INTUITIONThe research is meant to give cars human-like commonsense to make driving safer. Greg Stevens, Ford's global manager for research in driver assistance and active safety, explained: "Drivers are good at using the cues around them to predict what will happen next. They know that what you can't see is often as important as what you can."Our goal in working with MIT and Stanford is to bring a similar type of intuition to the vehicle." The company did not disclose how much money had been budgeted for such research.Fields said Ford believed fully automated driving, alternative-fuel vehicles and vehicle-to-vehicle communications would be a huge part of the future and so was investing in technologies, business models and partnerships to get there by 2025."Our goal is to offer a level of technology at which a driver is still in control and still able to enjoy the driving experience but in a better, safer, more efficient way."