CEO of Ford, Jim Hackett, has put a 2021 deadline on Autonomous vehicles. Could this huge leap in the automotive industry be closer than we think? Ford is creating a car with removable steering wheels and pedals, simply there for testing purposes, leading to a fully autonomous car. Many believe that this an unrealistic deadline to have a car that can drive anywhere, anytime, in any conditions by itself. They have patented the autonomous vehicle along with the removable equipment.
The driver’s airbag will no longer be in the steering wheel but in the dashboard where the wheel would normally be. It will be bigger and safer than previously models due to there being more space for it. There is a rating system used to classify automation, a scale of 0 to 5, 0 being no automation and 5 being full automation. Ford plan on producing a level 4 automation vehicle, the high level of automation of any vehicle ever produced. This will require a small amount of driver participation, but overall will be totally autonomous.
Extension research is being done by Ford to produce detailed algorithms to make the vehicle as safe as possible. This includes mapping, camera sensors and radar technology. The car will complete all aspects of driving without human intervention at any time and in any condition. Ford are creating more and more hybrids for testing which is due to double in the next two years. They are expanding their research centres and ensuring that all the testing is completed.
The company have invested $1 billion (£800 million) in Argo Artificial Intelligence to create the software needed for the new vehicles. The profit will be made by licensing the vehicles and the software to other companies. The vehicles are planned to initially be used in cities. They are also planning to use the vehicles as a taxi service of sort, using a phone app.
Many people feel there are dangers to cars being this autonomous. There have been incidents already with driverless cars and people are worried there could be disasters caused by a blip in the technology. Martin from Georgesons Cars says, “autonomous vehicles may be the future of the car industry, however are they going to be as reliable the normal cars we are used to? I’m not too sure, but it does eliminate human error from our vehicles.”
Have Ford bitten off more than they can chew with this project? Or will autonomy be our future?