If you drive a car, I suggest you read this post by Mark Fields, CEO of Ford Motor Company. Ford is staking their claim in the driverless car market, and it is a bold one. Ford expects to mass-produce driverless cars in 2021 for ride-hailing and ride-sharing services. And this isn’t an advanced autopilot or car with self-driving capabilities; this is a “No steering wheel. No gas pedals. No brake pedals. A driver will not be required.” fully driverless car.
Ford has decided that Level 3 automation, defined by the US Department of Transportation as semi-autonomous driving where the driver needs to take over with ‘reasonable notice,’ is not worth pursuing and instead they are going directly for Level 4, a fully driverless car. Ford isn’t the only company investing and preparing for this future, but they have made a very public and bold statement that should accelerate investment in this market. It should also signal to any car company that doesn’t already have an advanced program to develop self-driving cars: you may already be too late.
It is also interesting that Ford will provide self-driving cars for ride-sharing services first. This is a smart move because it will allow them to retain control of the vehicles (with ride-sharing partners) and they will be able to collect the massive amount of data needed to improve the safety and operation of these systems.
This will be a great social experiment. How will society adapt to having cars available on-demand that will take us anywhere? How fast can we reduce the number of motor vehicle deaths (30,000/yr in the United States) by a factor of 10x? The future is almost here, and it isn’t hover-boards or self-drying clothes but is ubiquitous transportation for everyone, available instantly at the touch of an app.
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