FORD TARGETS FULLY AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE FOR RIDE SHARING IN 2021; INVESTS IN NEW TECH COMPANIES, DOUBLES SILICON VALLEY TEAM
- Ford announces intention to deliver high-volume, fully autonomous vehicle for ride sharing in 2021
- Ford investing in or collaborating with four startups on autonomous vehicle development
- Company also doubling Silicon Valley team and more than doubling Palo Alto campus
PALO ALTO, Calif., Aug. 16, 2016 – Ford today announces its intent to have a high-volume, fully autonomous SAE level 4-capable vehicle in commercial operation in 2021 in a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service.
To get there, the company is investing in or collaborating with four startups to enhance its autonomous vehicle development, doubling its Silicon Valley team and more than doubling its Palo Alto campus.
“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,” said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO. “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.”
Fields says he’s not closing the door on potential partnerships. Ford and Baidu Inc., the Chinese Internet behemoth, announced that both companies jointly invested $150 million in Velodyne, a Silicon Valley company that specializes in sensors. Already Silicon Valley and the auto industry have been in a dating frenzy looking for long-term partners to help develop the technology behind a self-driving car. Volkswagen spent $300 million to get a piece of ride-hailing company Uber’s European rival Gett. General Motors spent $1 billion to purchase Cruise Automation, as well as investing in ride-hire service Lyft. Meanwhile, Toyota invested in Uber.
Ford’s engineers may be confident, but are riders? The announced plan would have cars without not only drivers but obvious vehicle controls. Visintainer says he understands the public’s uneasiness about autonomy. He says the company is looking for ways to convince the public that self-driving cars can be safe. “It’s going to be an education and a journey, being transparent and open about the progress we’re making, and how we’re doing is a key part of that.”
Analysts say discussing the technology is a move to placate the concerns of Wall Street. General Motors, Google and some of Ford’s other competitors have spent the year making announcements and investments in advanced technology. Michelle Krebs with autotrader.com says GM has been grabbing all the headlines recently “and Ford can’t be happy about that, especially as some Wall Street analysts have wondered if Ford is falling behind in future mobility.” Ford’s Mark Fields has said Ford has been setting the pace.