Ford is putting as much energy into developing new vehicle technologies as it is in building them, according to the Blue Oval's local arm.

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Speaking to CarAdvice at the launch of the company's Driving Skills for Life program, Wes Sherwood, communications director at Ford Australia, said if the brand is to consider itself as an innovator it needs to focus on developing new technology.

"We feel that as an innovator, our number one role is to find new in-vehicle technologies," he said. "It's why we're turning Ford into as much a technology and software company as a hardware company."

"This stuff is all software, sensor-based technologies, so we've invested in opening offices in Silicon Valley - not only for features like Sync, but because we have to be driven as a tech company to do this," he added.

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Above: Ford's seatbelt airbags were a world-first for rear passengers

In terms of safety, Sherwood says manufacturers play a key role in helping to not only protect vehicle occupants but to also prevent collisions altogether through the introduction of new technologies.

"Our role is to help reduce risks in cars to help prevent crashes in the first place, and when the crash happens we want to have some of the most advanced features to help protect occupants," he said.

"That’s why we’re doing so much with our Australian engineers and globally on semi-autonomous features, because those things can help drivers and take the stress away from risky situations."

"Even as driverless cars come online, crashes are going to be with us for quite some time," Sherwood added, conceding that the role of autonomous vehicles in reducing the road toll will not be an overnight revolution.

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Above: Ford plans to have an autonomous ride-share fleet by 2021

Ford has pioneered the introduction of several technologies in recent years, including the first implementation of seatbelt airbags for rear passengers in the US-market Explorer SUV and Mondeo/Fusion mid-sizer, along with the 'MyKey' system that allows parents to program a key for young drivers that can limit the vehicle's top speed and audio volume.

The Blue Oval is also working on a driverless vehicle fleet that will be ready to be deployed in 2021.