Ford Promises Autonomous Car in 2021

Ford recently announced plans to mass-produce a fully autonomous car by 2021. Ford’s president, Mark Fields, added that this new model would not only be able to drive itself, but would be built with a steering wheel during an event in the Silicon Valley.

ford 2Fields added that the auto company would be doubling its investment in its research center in the city. The car manufacturer also plans to make additional and hefty investments in technology companies willing to work with and within the autonomous driving industry.

The self-driving vehicle will likely be implemented as part of a ride-sharing service much like Uber and Lyft, but the service will not require a driver.

“As you can imagine, the experience inside a vehicle where you don’t have to take control changes everything,” explained Mr. Fields in an interview with a major media news outlet. “Whether you want to do work, whether you want entertainment… those are the types of things we are thinking about as we design the experience for this type of autonomous vehicle.”

“There will be a growing per cent of the industry that will be fully autonomous vehicles,” Fields predicted. “Our goal is not only to be an auto company, but an auto and mobility company,” he concluded.

Ford has taken major strides towards becoming a high-tech firm as well as an auto manufacturer over the past few years. It recently began to describe itself as a technology company as opposed to an automaker, and Fields’ speech in Silicon Valley on Tuesday certainly supported its new tech identity.

Ford has also been making some rather unprecedented partnerships with tech companies from around the globe. Its recent decision to collaborate with Chinese firm Baidu has begot a joint investment of $150 million in LiDAR system developer Velodyme. LiDAR is a system akin to radar that allows for computers to detect the objects around a car.

Ford also helped to raise $6.6 million for digital mapping company Civil Maps and even invested in neuroscience research.

Automated Fusion Hybrid Research VehicleFord’s announcement was made devoid of any mentioning of Google or Apple, implying that Ford plans to compete against the tech moguls instead of teaming up.

Google remains the leader in self-driving technology; its autonomous vehicles have been on the road in Silicon Valley for years now, and have spread to Austin and Seattle as well. Google is also developing a car without a steering wheel, though regulations have kept the car from entering public property.

The US-based Society of Automotive Engineers created system of levels of sophistication of self-driving technology. Tesla’s Autopilot, for example, can change lanes and monitor traffic flow but comes out only to Level two autonomy, meaning even if the software is used it must be monitored at all times. Ford claimed that it would be aiming on Level 4 autonomy, meaning the cars would achieve “high automation” by being able to operate unmonitored in a particular use case. Ford said its use case would chalk up to city areas.

Level 5 autonomy implies that a car can drive itself in any and all driving conditions.

 

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