Ford CEO Mark Fields recently announced the goal of Ford to have fully autonomous vehicles on the road as part of a ride sharing program by 2021. This is one of the most aggressive marks set yet but Ford is confident they will be able to reach this goal. In an emotionally exuberant press conference, part of which is shared in the video below, Fields says that by 2021 we will have Ford vehicles with no steering wheel, no pedals and no need for a driver to take over the controls of the vehicle.
There’s already news shared by other manufacturers that have set a target of 2020, these include Google, Nissan and Toyota. Of course Tesla has an even more aggressive goal with fully autonomous driving being accomplished by 2018. As for the ride sharing part, this seems to be the standard way many automakers are headed with GM partnering with Lyft and Tesla is working on a plan to have a fleet of Tesla models offered for sharing between owners. This may cause a shift on the auto industry, but as more people look to different mobility solutions this is certainly where things are headed.
The first part of this change has to happen with fully autonomous vehicles being allowed on the roads across the country or around the world. Certainly these vehicles will be met with some regulatory delays, but five years may be enough to pull off what Ford plans to do. Now viewing itself as a mobility company more than a manufacturer of vehicles the liability concerns raise the red flag once again. If Ford is the mobility company that owns the vehicles that are being shared wouldn’t an accident fall under their own liability? If the vehicle is fully autonomous how much could a private owner actually be held accountable for the vehicle and the software?
These questions certainly need to be answered sometime soon before any mass production of fully autonomous vehicles hit the road. Fields states this will have such an impact on society that it will be similar to the assembly line that Henry Ford built 100 years ago. The only problem with this thought process is that the assembly line didn’t attempt to work on its own and was contained within the walls of the Ford plant.
Hopefully Mark Fields is right. I hope we have fully autonomous vehicles in the next five year and there’s ride sharing of these vehicles for more people to enjoy the mobility they need. The only hesitation I have is the need for regulations and legislation to spell out the liability of vehicle accidents when these vehicles are involved. I would imagine if the automakers were to be held accountable for their vehicles in collisions with this technology they might slow down just a bit in regards to this technology before putting it out to the public. You can see the announcement yourself by watching this video.