How Ford’s self-driving cars will work – Business Insider – Business Insider
Ford has big plans to get into self-driving cars.
On Tuesday, the automaker announced that it aims to roll out
an autonomous taxi fleet in at least one city in 2021. Ford said
its driverless cars will have level 4 autonomy, meaning they will
not have a steering wheel, gas or brake pedals.
While this sounds impressive, it should be noted that Ford’s
futuristic cars will still have some significant limitations, at
least in the beginning.
For example, the cars will only be able to operate in geofenced
areas within cities, meaning the company will set defined
physical parameters that have previously been mapped by the
company’s driverless test fleet.
What’s more, Ken Washington, Ford’s vice president of advanced
research and engineering, told Business Insider that the company
will also only provide the service in an area where its sensors
can “operate at their optimum performance.” This means that it
will not operate in certain weather conditions or in geographical
locations that might interfere with how sensors collect data.
Ford’s strategy doesn’t differ terribly from what other
automakers are doing when it comes to self-driving cars. For
example, Volvo plans to roll out its self-driving system called
Intellisafe Autopilot in 2020 and it
will also only allow its cars to enter self-driving mode on
Ford’s self-driving fleet is a good reminder that we are still a
ways off from autonomous vehicles taking us wherever we want.
The dream, of course, is to open an app, request a car, and get
where you want to go in a car with no driver. That
reality is still a ways off because the technology is just
not there yet.
Ford hasn’t said what city it will launch in first, nor has it
determined how it plans to enable people to request a car, but
Washington said that it’s in talks with a number of companies
about potential partnerships.
“We are working through those
options as we speak. Like others, we are talking to everybody and
everybody is talking to us… But we haven’t selected and
finalized how we will bring this service to the public,”
Washington said. “We are developing technology across that full
spectrum of needs to make this a reality, we have that
possibility of doing it organically ourselves, but we are open to
partnering if it makes sense.”
While Ford will launch its first commercial self-driving car in a
ride-sharing fleet, it’s ambitions go beyond just offering the
technology in a service setting.
Washington said that longterm, Ford “absolutely” will begin to
sell autonomous vehicles to consumers, however, he noted that for
now it’s important for Ford to stay focused on the ride-sharing
and ride-hailing business to bring mobility to the masses.
Washington likened Ford’s push into autonomous cars to Henry
Ford’s introduction of the assembly line in auto
“That brought mobility to the masses, it literally put the world
on wheels. Prior to that cars were only available to the rich who
could afford these custom coaches,” Washington said.
“Today, we are seeing something
very similar where people have mobility needs and they can’t
afford taxis or can’t afford ride services because they are quite
expensive in terms of dollars per mile,” Washington
said. “Autonomy is going to transition that to be more
affordable and more accessible… and we are really excited what
that means for society in terms of enabling people to move and
making a better world.”