Automotive

Fully autonomous ride-sharing Fords to hit the road in 2021

When it launches in 2021, Ford's car will be capable of driving completely autonomously, without the need for driver input
When it launches in 2021, Ford's car will be capable of driving completely autonomously, without the need for driver input
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When it launches in 2021, Ford's car will be capable of driving completely autonomously, without the need for driver input
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When it launches in 2021, Ford's car will be capable of driving completely autonomously, without the need for driver input
The Ford Fusion is being used as a base for autonomous driving testing 
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The Ford Fusion is being used as a base for autonomous driving testing 
Come 2021, this driver won't be needed
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Come 2021, this driver won't be needed
Ford is working to make sure its self-driving systems work in all conditions
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Ford is working to make sure its self-driving systems work in all conditions
Ford is investing heavily in its Palo Alto and Silicon Valley research centers
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Ford is investing heavily in its Palo Alto and Silicon Valley research centers
Ford has invested heavily in startups working on autonomous car systems
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Ford has invested heavily in startups working on autonomous car systems
The Ford self-driving car will be a ride-sharing vehicle
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The Ford self-driving car will be a ride-sharing vehicle
Ford has committed to becoming a "mobility company"
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Ford has committed to becoming a "mobility company"

Whether you like it or not autonomous cars are coming, but exactly what the future holds when it comes to car ownership is not known. Tesla is expecting car sharing to play a huge role in future models, and Chrysler has teamed up with Google to work on the self-driving car program. The role of the car is changing, and big manufacturers are being forced to change with it. With this in mind, Ford has announced its intention to have a fully autonomous, ride-sharing vehicle ready for delivery in 2021.

To make sure its self-driving car is ready to roll by 2021, Ford is looking beyond Detroit. The company is doubling the size of its Palo Alto and Silicon Valley teams, as well as investing in four startups working on different self-driving technology projects, including advanced algorithm specialists, 3D-mapping experts and sensor-development companies.

It's not just the number of people involved in development that's growing, the number of cars involved is also on the up. By the end of this year, Ford's fleet of autonomous Fusion Hybrids will include around 30 cars, with plans to triple that number by the end of 2017.

When it launches in 2021, the car will be capable of SAE Level 4 automation, which means that it will able to drive completely autonomously, without the need for driver input, in most conditions. Although SAE guidelines say Level 4 cars might not be able to operate in bad weather, Ford has been testing its cars in snowy and dark conditions, so it will be interesting to see whether the finished product will be sidelined when grey clouds start rolling in.

The Ford self-driving car will be a ride-sharing vehicle
The Ford self-driving car will be a ride-sharing vehicle

"Ford has been developing and testing autonomous vehicles for more than 10 years," says Raj Nair,Ford executive vice president, Global Product Development, and chief technical officer. "We have astrategic advantage because of our ability to combine the software and sensing technology with thesophisticated engineering necessary to manufacture high-quality vehicles. That is what it takes tomake autonomous vehicles a reality for millions of people around the world."

Beyond the technology involved in creating an autonomous car, the other fascinating part of Ford's take on self-driving technology is the fact it's working on a ride-sharing model instead of private ownership. The company has said it's aiming to become a car manufacturer and a mobility company. Even if younger buyers might not have the same burning desire to own a car as generations past, they still need to get from A-to-B.

Ford President and CEO Mark Fields is aware of this fact, and says self-driving cars have great potential to get people moving, whether there's an expensive F-150 sitting in their driveway or not.

"The next decade will be defined by automation of the automobile, and we see autonomous vehicles as having as significant an impact on society as Ford's moving assembly line did 100 years ago," says Ford president and CEO Mark Fields. "We're dedicated to putting on the road an autonomous vehicle that can improve safety and solve social and environmental challenges for millions of people – not just those who can afford luxury vehicles."

A snippet of Mark Fields' presentation about the project is below.

Source: Ford

Ford Targets Fully Autonomous Vehicle for Ride Sharing in 2021

6 comments
Deres
With at least 4 expensive LIDARs, two GPS (we see the antenaes), at least one tachometer (mounted directly on the wheels because of the propulsion issues) and probably several high grade open shutter cameras, the Ford vehicle will not be a cheap one !!! This represents tens thousand of dollars of materials at current price !
Mel Tisdale
I suspect that the car industry is playing chicken with this autonomous fad. It is obvious that there are situations where the system will not work well enough to save the lives of the vehicle occupants, or other road users, yet they continue to develop the systems waiting to see who gives up first. (It is a simple fact that these cars must either work without a driver100% of the time or the driver must be instantaneously ready to take over. So forget getting in the back seat and sleeping off the pints of IPA that you have consumed during a good night out while it drives you home. Personally, I just cannot see that happening.) Not only that, these vehicles are going to have to live with the current fleet, need I say more? One thing I can agree on is that road vehicles are in a time of major upheaval. It seems like a good time to only have LHD vehicles. At least the driver assist features that this autonomous driving technology will provide should make that possible without causing dangerous situations. Such a move would mean that at least they would be universally useable anywhere in the world.
Bob Flint
Reliability, Price, & No steering wheel, gas pedal, or BRAKES...Yeah sure is Ford planning on changing the Laws as well????
habakak
Wow, I can't believe there are people who think this will not happen. Lidars used to cost $100k when they were first being used for self-driving cars in 2005. Look at where it is at now: http://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/transportation/sensors/quanergy-solid-state-lidar People always look at CURRENT prices/tech/state of affairs. Look at where it was 10 years ago and think about where it can be in 10 years. Autonomous cars will be infinitely safer than human drivers, but they will not be perfect. However, they will be better than 99.999% of human drivers at 99.999% of times. All the silly problems people see today with the technology and costs will be solved in the next 5 to 10 years max.
Mel Tisdale
@habakak Just for starters, how do you suppose aquaplane conditions are going to be detected?
Daniel Harbin
Being a rideshare driver, I dont see this happening anytime soon unless thetech improves to find a rider in a 500+ unit complex when the rider gives the main address. And then the rider cant see because its dark. Or the rider puts in the address but is in a slightly different pickup location. Does the vehicle stop for cigs or drinks at the local 7/11 or go through the drive through of Jack in the Box? Plenty of fun stuff. How long does the vehicle wait for rider? Just a few problems.
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