Ford Executive Provides More Realistic Timeline for Driverless Cars

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【Summary】The head of research at Ford Motor Co. revealed a more achievable timeline for the release of self-driving vehicles.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Apr 05, 2017 7:25 AM PT
Ford Executive Provides More Realistic Timeline for Driverless Cars

Automakers and companies are spending millions of dollars researching, developing, and testing self-driving technology. But while major players all agree on the fact that driverless vehicles are coming in the future, they don't necessarily agree on when self-driving cars will go on sale to the public. 

Some see driverless cars on the road in the near future – within the next two or three years – while others believe autonomous vehicles are still a long way off – five or more years. Ford Motor Co.'s head of research is one of those that falls into the latter group with a more conservative timeline. 

Playing It Safe Or Being Realist?

As Automotive News reports, Ken Washington, Ford's vice president of research and advanced engineering, stated that mass adoption of self-driving cars isn't likely to happen until five to 10 years after the first fleet of vehicles has been implemented. 

Ford is currently working on developing a Level 4 driverless car, which is one that can drive on its own for the majority of times except for certain instances in inclement weather (according to the SAE). But the automaker has also hinted towards releasing a Level 5 autonomous vehicle – capable of driving on its own without any human intervention – within the next five years

The timeline given by Washington, as Automotive News reports, differs greatly by the one that was suggested by Mark Fields, CEO of Ford Motor Co., who claimed that the automaker would sell robot cars to consumers by 2025. 

"It's really hard to guess and predict the pace of the technology," Washington said at the SAE WCX World Congress Experience. "Our current view is the adoption rates will be relatively gradual." 

Now Or Later, Autonomous Cars Are Coming

That may sound a little discouraging, especially with all of the strides that automakers and companies have made recently. But Washington believes that autonomous cars are still a part of reality and are a safe bet for companies to pursue. 

"This is not science fiction," Washington said. "This is not a research project. This is something we're going to make happen, and others will, too." 

Just like other automakers and companies, Ford, as the report points out, is looking to self-driving cars as a way of dealing with congestion, tightening emissions regulations, and changing attitudes drivers have towards cars. 

To help reach its goal, Ford announced an investment of $1 billion into artificial intelligence startup Argo AI a few months ago to build the brains behind its autonomous vehicles. The partnership will see Argo AI assist the automaker in developing a virtual-driver system, potentially allowing Ford's cars to drive themselves. The collaboration between the two companies is aimed towards helping Ford release a Level 5 vehicle, something that doesn't even need to come with a steering wheel or pedals, within the next five years. 

This isn't the only investment Ford has made, though. Last year, the automaker made four investments to partner with various companies to develop its self-driving tech. 

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