Ford Motor Company has announced its plans to build a fleet of fully automated driverless vehicles for commercial ride-sharing by 2021, according to Reuters.

The company said it was increasing its investments in technology firms and tripling its investment in semi-autonomous systems, which would entail doubling the size of its Palo Alto research team while expanding its campus in Silicon Valley.

Ford driverless car

Ford has more than 100 researchers working at its Silicon Valley campus (Image: AFP)

Ford made no mention of Apple or Google in its announcement, suggesting it sees itself competing against other tech companies who have their own car plans, rather than teaming up with them.

Ken Washington, Ford's vice president of research, told Reuters it was important to signal that Ford intends to win in this space. "We're saying to partners, we are the winning partner. It's not a hollow promise, it's a real intent," Washington said.

"Launching a self-driving car first for ride-sharing is a better way to reach the mass market and make the cars more affordable," said Ford Chief Technical Officer Raj Nair. The company is unlikely to offer a similar driverless car without steering wheel or pedals to consumers until 2025 or later, explained Nair.

Ford said it would invest in "Level 4" autonomy, referring to standards set by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). The levels represent the degree of autonomous sophistication, with Level 4 being "high automation", meaning the car is able to drive unmonitored in a specific use case - a city area, in Ford's vision, for instance.

Nair said the company wasn't willing to let drivers take control from a level two or three vehicle at a moment’s notice, citing safety concerns. "We don't yet know how to manage hand over back to the driver and have him engage and have him situationally aware, and be able to do that in a safe aware manner," he said, without mentioning Tesla's recent troubles.

The death of a Tesla driver in May who was using the company's "Autopilot" system but had his hands off the wheel has highlighted the confusion over drivers' responsibilities in a semi-autonomous car. Just yesterday, Tesla went so far as to remove the word "autopilot" from its China website after a driver in Beijing who crashed while the mode was active complained that the company had misled them about its capability.

"We abandoned the stepping-stone approach," added Ford chief executive Mark Fields, who believed there are too many risks involved in the safe "hand-over" of driving responsibility between car and driver.

Several sources indicate Apple is exploring various levels of autonomy in its much rumored car project, and has already met with California DMV officials regarding self-driving laws within the state.

The company's so-called Apple Car, codenamed "Project Titan" internally, is reportedly being headed up by former longtime executive Bob Mansfield, who last served as Senior Vice President of Technologies at the company. Last month it was reported that Apple's rumored 2020 target for launching the electric vehicle may have slipped to 2021.

Related Roundup: Apple Car

Top Rated Comments

jonnysods Avatar
65 months ago
I'll take one of these if it drives me all the way from Canada to Florida for my family vacation!
[doublepost=1471431841][/doublepost]
If Ford's autonomous driving car will be using old internal combustion engines that pollute the city, good luck getting passengers to board that vehicle. By 2021, Tesla will have fully autonomous electric cars that don't damage the environment. What vehicles do you think customers will choose in 2021, a gas guzzler or a super clean Tesla?
Time is up. Die slow (or fast), Ford Motor Company.
PS this ain't really a MacRumor.
Where do you think electricity comes from, or what electric vehicle batteries are made off? Flowers?
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Jmausmuc Avatar
65 months ago
If Ford's autonomous driving car will be using old internal combustion engines that pollute the city, good luck getting passengers to board that vehicle. By 2021, Tesla will have fully autonomous electric cars that don't damage the environment. What vehicles do you think customers will choose in 2021, a gas guzzler or a super clean Tesla?
Time is up. Die slow, Ford Motor Company.
PS this ain't really a MacRumor.
Can't even begin to explain how annoying these kind of posts are.

Everybody knows, that electric vehicles are not significantly cleaner than ICE vehicles because of of many reasons like manufacturing, toxic battery acids, energy production and so on.

Don't overexaggerate so much.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
theluggage Avatar
65 months ago
Everybody knows, that electric vehicles are not significantly cleaner than ICE vehicles because of of many reasons like manufacturing, toxic battery acids, energy production and so on.
Everybody knows that any sentence beginning "Everybody knows" is probably wrong. Er, hold on...

For starters, whatever the "overall" lifetime emissions of EVs are, they don't pump out nasty gasses and particulates at street level (unless you insist on doing donuts), so even if they don't cure global warming they'll make our cities much nicer places to breathe in.

The only "nasty toxic stuff" in EVs that isn't also present in ICE vehicles is in (or is used to produce) things like loads of copper wire in coils and the lithium ion batteries - all of which is sufficiently valuable to make it worth re-using & recycling. The only reason that it would end up in the environment is if you don't read that disclaimer about autopilot mode...

True - if you charge your EV from electricity generated from fossil fuels then they ultimately burn fossil fuels but if you have access to sustainably produced electricity, they can use it (unlike ICEs). In many places, you can choose to pay a bit extra for a "green" energy tariff. Telsa are working on solar panels and home storage batteries - so many people will be able to generate at least part of their own needs from solar.

As to whether it is more efficient to refine gasoline, transport it around the world and burn it in an ICE vs burn coal or gas at a big centralised powers station, distribute it by cable and charge a battery... well, unfortunately anybody who has the necessary knowledge and access to data to work that out seems to have a pro- or con- EV agenda, and its far to easy to be selective, so its hard to know who to believe.

Oh, and by all accounts, EVs are also very nice to drive...
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Alenore Avatar
65 months ago
Everyone wants a piece of the "self-driving" vehicle market these days. Sorry, count me out as an early adopter. I'm a choose your own destiny kind of guy.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/30/tesla-autopilot-death-self-driving-car-elon-musk
And this is exactly why Tesla has repeated again and again it wasn't perfect and drivers had to still actually stay alert to avoid that.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
smacrumon Avatar
65 months ago
If Ford's autonomous driving car will be using old internal combustion engines that pollute the city, good luck getting passengers to board that vehicle. By 2021, Tesla will have fully autonomous electric cars that don't damage the environment. What vehicles do you think customers will choose in 2021, a gas guzzler or a super clean Tesla?
Time is up. Die slow (or fast), Ford Motor Company.
PS this ain't really a MacRumor.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
smacrumon Avatar
65 months ago
Already posted one vaguely pro-EV post, but so much nonsense from both sides of the argument, so...



Actually, no - 400,000 people have paid a returnable $1000 deposit to (effectively) register interest in ordering a Model 3. At some stage, they'll be asked to place their order (and find out what the optional extras are) - which could be a sticky spot for Tesla if lots of people ask for their $1k back. Think of a number for the drop-out rate - who knows - but there's a big difference between stumping up $1000 (returnable) on a whim and stumping up $35k+ for real.



$35000 is only "not expensive" when you compare it with BMWs, Mercs, Audis etc. Otherwise, its still a heck of a lot of money for a car - you can probably get something perfectly good, new, from a less-prestigious brand for half that price & you need to save a heck of a lot of gas to make up that difference. Not saying that there isn't a market for $35k cars, but you have to decide what you mean by mainstream (...and don't fall for the "average price" trick, which is dragged up by a small number of very expensive sales - if you want to guess what proportion of cars will be EV in the future you want the median price i.e. what do half of drivers pay). A lot will depend on what the specs of that $35k model are and what the minimum sensible options package costs... How much for the power lead? (Also, currently there's a lot of government rebates to be have, but they'll evaporate as soon as sales start picking up...)



I think I did 1000km once... never again. However, that's not how it works.

The Telsa 3 offers a 215 mile (350 km) range. I've certainly driven further than that with only short comfort breaks (no time to re-charge). I've got a 180 mile drive that I normally do with a single coffee break, and a 300 mile drive on which I'd normally take 1 longer break and one or two brief ones.

But hey, OK, lets have a relaxed life and stop for 40 minutes recharge every 215 miles.

...except that's not every 215 miles, because that range is dependent on temperature, driving conditions, night/day and the phase of the moon. Even if the route is well endowed with Superchargers they're not gonna be every 5 miles so you'll have to err on the side of caution - so I'd guess you'd end up stopping every 150 miles or so.

...and then you have to consider your destination: can you charge there? Do you want to have to go looking for a charger as soon as you arrive - or do you need to add another stop to your trip so you arrive with a half-full battery. Looks like its time to start choosing your hotels based on charger availability, and your friends and relatives based on whether they have a driveway with accessible power.

...finally, we're talking about an "affordable" Tesla with a 215 mile range that doesn't exist yet (or twice as much cash for a Tesla S with a 250 mile range). Get something affordable like a Nissan Leaf with a 120-150 mile "theoretical" range and probably an 80-100 mile "reliable" range and you're gonna be stopping at every service station for a top-up.

So, anyway, with a bit of logistics, the Tesla would be workable for that 180 mile trip, it could do the 300 mile trip (subject to well-placed chargers - the last 100 miles could be iffy) - anything cheaper like the leaf is just not practical for such trips. ... or I could just hop in my ICE, which can be refilled in 5 minutes at any service station without giving a thought to my fuel stop strategy. Its not simply the range of ICEs that is unbeatable - its the near-instant and universally available refuelling.

The reality is that current EVs are great for day trips within the range of an overnight charge - but for a longer trip you either need to (a) get the top-of-the-range Tesla with a 250 mile range, (b) have a second ICE car for long trips or (c) rent a car for long trips.

...which is a bit hard to swallow when you're paying 50% or more over the price of your ICE car that can do everything.

Of course, if you've got a nice driveway/garage for recharging and live in a 2-car family - and/or are an American who never drives further than your local airport (because everywhere else is 1000 miles away) then EVs are perfect, and that's not a market to be sneezed at.

(Also, there are evidently a few leasing deals in the US where they all but pay you to take the car in order to make some state quota for EV sales - nice if you can get them but not available to most).



On which of the various production autonomous cars that only exist in the imaginations of Tesla, Google, Apple, Ford et. al. do you base that assertion?

The nearest thing available to date - Tesla's Autopilot - isn't safe: we know that not because of a couple of well publicised crashes, but because Tesla feels the need to put out a disclaimer that says, effectively, you shouldn't treat it as autonomous - which is dumb because as soon as a system lets you take your hands off the steering wheel, the average moron in the street is gonna crack open a soda and start tweeting (its hard enough stopping them doing that with regular cars).

I agree that long term autonomous cars will probably be safer than human drivers - the problem is how we get from here to there, because human nature makes anything less than full, reliable autonomy an accident waiting to happen. It would actually be easier if, overnight, everything went autonomous so the computers didn't have to deal with the nuts behind other car's wheels. I don't think that's likely...
Ummmm??? 400,000 people have paid a deposit with the intention to buy, what don't you get about that? I sign up with my email address when I'm registering my interest, but I pay a $1000 deposit when I'm committing to buy a new Tesla Model 3.

Many times Tesla Motors have said that even the base $35,000 car will be a brilliant car, industry leading in its class, no need for optional extras.

$35,000 is not an expensive electric car. It is a highly smart if you're keen to get rid of being tied to a gasoline pump and all that junk under the hood that needs to be refilled for the life of the car. Waste of time and money those old gas guzzlers are.

A lot of disruption is on the way for the old players like Ford and GM. Scary times ahead for the management at those places. Fortunately, all their workers will have better jobs at a better place like Tesla or other electric vehicle manufacturers, maybe even Apple.

1000 km in one go? That's 10 hours of non stop driving at 100 km/h. Not only is that highly dangerous, the act of continuously driving for 10 hours straight is irresponsible not to mention very expensive on gas fuel! Most people stop for lunch, dinner, breakfast, and umm, sleep :oops: ZZZ zzz ZZZ zzz ZZZ [I]zzz ZZZ zzz ZZZ.[/I]

You're inventing non issues here. It almost reads as big oil propaganda! :eek::rolleyes:o_O
- There is no range issue, it has nothing to do with the phase of the moon - a ridiculous argument you've made.
- Charging is simple, the car locates the charging stations, you can charge at home.
- What's the problem exactly? There are no problems with electric cars. There are however huge problems with gas guzzler internal combustion engine cars and they are so pricey over their life time as well! Ripped off on a number of fronts with old gas guzzler cars.

I get it, you are angry. I'm sorry. Move aside, take another 1000 km non stop drive in your gas guzzler and let the Tesla Model 3 and other electric vehicles through.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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