Will Ford Be the First to Mass-Produce Autonomous Vehicles?
“Ford will be mass producing vehicles with full autonomy within five years.” That from Mark Fields, Ford’s President and CEO. Ford plans for the vehicles without drivers to first be deployed in commercial operations and as ride-sharing vehicles.
Ford isn’t kidding about these vehicles being autonomous. “That means no steering wheels, no gas pedal, and no brake pedals.” According to Fields, who went on to say “A driver is not going to be required.”
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Ford clearly sees a major shift coming in how automobiles are used. A vehicle with no driver does not need an Ecoboost engine, nor will she need a 500 hp V8 engine or many of the go-fast parts Ford now installs on many of its vehicles to differentiate themselves from rivals.
Fields says that Ford sees the shift to driverless vehicles as equal to the milestone of Ford’s mass-production of cars using a moving assembly line over 100 years ago. Just as Toyota has established design centers in California and at MIT in Cambridge Mass., Ford is doubling down on its silicon valley presence.
Although Tesla talks the talk most loudly about autonomy, the fact remains that the combined output of Tesla, even if the Model 3 is a huge success, will remain tiny compared to the footprint Ford, Toyota, or even Honda will have once autonomy is mainstream. Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, Global Product Development, and chief technical officer made mention of this, saying, “We have a strategic advantage because of our ability to combine the software and sensing technology with the sophisticated engineering necessary to manufacture high-quality vehicles. That is what it takes to make autonomous vehicles a reality for millions of people around the world.”