So the race to bring driverless cars to the mass market is hotting up. But it begs the question, would you drive one? Do you call it driving or riding or being a passenger?
From a technological standpoint, they certainly excite us here at Comms. We love driving, but this futuristic concept would have seemed at home in some far-fetched science-fiction film from three decades ago. So to think that they could become a reality is staggering.
However, in May, a driver of an electric Tesla car was killed in a road accident. We fully expected that this tragic incident would derail any form of progress. However, the latest car manufacturers to throw its hat in the self-driving ring are the Ford Motor Company.
The CEO of Fords, Mark Fields, had this to say, “We’re rethinking our entire business model. It’s no longer about how many vehicles we can sell; it’s about what services we can provide. We understand that the world has changed from a mindset of owning vehicles to one of owning and sharing them.”
This comes on the back of Ford launching Ford Smart Mobility (FSM), a subsidiary to develop in-car connectivity, ride-sharing and autonomous technologies. FSM is designed to compete like a startup, to translate Ford’s decade of work in autonomous systems into real products.
Fields foresees a world transformed by driverless cars, Uber and climate change. “You could argue that in major cities, vehicle density will drop because of automated vehicles and congestion charges. Some cities might even outlaw personal use of vehicles.”
One of Ford’s strategies to cope with this is to accelerate its efforts towards a fully autonomous car. Fields now says Ford will have a completely self-driving car, without a steering wheel, an accelerator or pedals, in production by 2021. It will initially be used only for robotic taxi services in restricted urban areas but should be available for consumers to purchase by the middle of the decade.
Ford Fusions and the Lincoln MKZ are already being used for self-driving start-ups such as Faraday Future, Autonomous Stuff and Uber.
“It’s the absolute best vehicle right now for testing self-driving,” says Bobby Hambrick, CEO of Autonomous Stuff, a company developing retro-fit automated driving kits. “There are no other car makers that are so open to working through third parties like us.”
Fields also point to the multinational’s competencies in building and selling vehicles. “We’ve been working on autonomous vehicles for over ten years,” he said. “And for 100 years, we’ve built a high-volume product with quality and affordability.”
Fields finished his keynote address by predicting that autonomous vehicles will have as significant an impact on society as Henry Ford’s moving assembly line did a century ago.
So it would appear that Ford is already very much in the game.
Until next time…