Ford is building cars without steering wheels, gas or brake pedals – Business Insider

Posted: Monday, August 22, 2016

Ford Fusion
fully autonomous Fusion Hybrid research vehicle on streets of
Dearborn, MI. Ford has been researching autonomous vehicles for
more than a decade and currently tests fully autonomous vehicles
in Michigan, Arizona and California, and will triple its
autonomous vehicle test fleet this year to have the largest of
any automaker.


Last week, Ford announced it will launch a fleet of autonomous
taxis in at least one city in 2021. But, unlike other
automakers, Ford’s self-driving cars won’t have a steering wheel,
gas or brake pedals.

Most major automakers have said that they are planning to roll
out a self-driving car sometime during the next five years, but
the levels of autonomy vary. Many car companies have
committed to semi-autonomous systems that enable the car to be
completely autonomous in certain driving situations, but that
still have a steering wheels so that the driver can take back
control of the vehicle when needed.

However, Ford wants to make its cars fully autonomous because it
sees these semi-autonomous systems as a possible liability. This
is because people begin to trust the systems too much and fail to
re-engage control of the vehicle when needed.

“We are not in a race to be
first, but we are in a race to do the right thing, which is why
we are building on more than ten years of experience on how to
responsibly deliver a ride service that is fully

that does not
require a driver to re-engage,” Ken Washington, vice president of
advanced research and engineering, told Business Insider.

“Our research has led us to understand that it [re-engagement] is
very difficult to do and we don’t know how to enable that, so
that is what led us to pursuing a full level four autonomous
vehicle and this re-engagement issue goes away,” Washington said.

ford driverless carFord

Ford, of course, is not the only company developing self-driving
cars that has run into this problem of customers trusting
self-driving systems too much. 

For example, when Tesla first rolled out Autopilot, there were
numerous YouTube videos that showed drivers testing the limits of
Autopilot by taking their hands completely off the wheel while
driving at fast speeds down a highway. One driver even sat in the
back seat while the car drove itself down a freeway.

Now, Tesla and other car makers implementing these advanced drive
assistance systems (ADAS) have always maintained that drivers are
still required to monitor the driving situation and keep their
hands on the wheel. But the fact of the matter is, once people
get use to the technology, they will find ways to abuse it.

Ford wants to avoid this problem
all together, which is why the company is ramping up its efforts
to get its vehicles to level four autonomy.

However, at least in the beginning, Ford’s self-driving cars will
still have some limitations.

For example, the cars will only
be able to operate in geofenced areas within an urban area,
meaning the company will set defined physical parameters that
have previously been mapped by the company’s driverless test

Ford will also only provide the
self-driving service in an area where the sensors on its
driverless cars can “operate at their optimum performance,”
meaning that it will not operate in certain weather conditions or
in geographical locations that might interfere with how sensors
collect data.


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