The boss of Ford has announced the company’s intent to have fully autonomous vehicles in commercial operation by 2021.
President and CEO Mark Fields has told a meeting in California that the vehicles will initially be for ride-hailing or ride-sharing, and that they will have no steering wheel, gas pedals or brake pedals. “A driver will not be required”.
“If someone had told you 10 years ago?—?even five years ago?—?that a major American car company would announce the mass production of a vehicle with no steering wheel, you would have said they were crazy,” he said.
“As little as four years ago, our approach was aligned with the thinking of most automakers today, which is taking incremental steps to achieve full autonomy by advancing driver assist technology. This is not how we look at it today. We learned that to achieve full autonomy, we’d have to take a completely different pathway. So, we abandoned a stepping-stone approach and created a dedicated “top down” engineering program to deliver fully autonomous vehicles and the new mobility solutions and business opportunities that a fully autonomous vehicle could deliver.”
He added that “the world is changing, and it’s changing quickly. We’re not sitting on the sidelines. Ford will be actively driving that change.”
Fields trumpeted how Ford brought cars to the masses and how autonomous vehicles can bring better safety to roads and mobility to those currently excluded, such as the elderly, disabled and those too young to drive.
The company has announced it is investing in, or collaborating with, four startups to enhance its autonomous vehicle development, doubling its Silicon Valley team and more than doubling its Palo Alto campus.
You can watch his speech here.
(Picture: Ford’s YouTube channel)