Ford will mass-produce self-driving cars by 2021—but for sharing, not buying

The automaker plans to develop ride-sharing and ride-hailing businesses to go with the autonomous cars it will build.

Ford just made a big promise about autonomous, or self-driving, cars—with a twist. On Tuesday at the company’s research facility in Palo Alto, California, CEO Mark Fields announced that the company will mass-produce autonomous vehicles by 2021. Up to now, companies have held out the vague goal of enabling autonomous driving by 2020 or so, but Ford is particularly aggressive in committing to a specific year in the near future.

Here’s the twist: These cars won’t be for you or anyone else to buy. Instead, these first autonomous cars from Ford will be made specifically for ride-sharing and ride-hailing. Fields emphasized, too, that these cars will be fully autonomous, without a steering wheel or other traditional controls.

Ford was already a leader among the major carmakers in autonomous research, but still, today’s announcement is a radical stance once reserved only for Google’s self-driving cars. Fields explained why Ford is moving away from the slow, incremental path being taken by other major automakers. “What we found with Level 3 autonomy [where the car drives but the driver remains in control] is that we don’t yet know how to manage handover back to the driver.” Fields didn’t refer specifically to the June tragedy where a Tesla driver died while letting his car drive, in semi-autonomous AutoPilot, straight into a tractor trailer, but the incident has cast a pall over all recent discussions of autonomous driving.

FIelds noted some business reasons for removing the driver, too. The first autonomous cars, tricked out with arrays of radars, cameras, and other sensors, would be too expensive for individual drivers anyway. “The economics don’t make sense,” Fields said. Also, Ford’s very interested in building new businesses in ride-sharing and ride-hailing, and the ability to make its own vehicles is a big advantage.

Fields envisioned a future where the young, disabled, and elderly could have better access to transportation through the use of autonomous vehicles. He added that such vehicles could also be useful for routine transportation work such as commuter shuttles and package delivery.

The company is fueling this effort with a ton of money and people, including major investments in LiDAR maker Velodyne (also announced Tuesday) and other companies with technologies key to autonomous driving.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags cars

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Melissa Riofrio

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?