If science fiction versions of the future have taught us anything, it is that we are headed into an age of driverless vehicles. The company who has this technology can change the world, and the one to have it first is Ford. What Ford has is a killer of Uber and Lyft.
According to BBC, Ford has made a pretty bold accusation saying that they can mass-produce a fully autonomous self-driving car without a steering wheel by 2021. This has been said by the company's president, Mark Fields, at an even in Palo Alto, California.
In fact, Ford has said that they would double its investment in its research center in the city, and will make sizable investments in technology companies who are involved in the autonomy industry. For example, Ford wants to partner with Chinese firm Baidu, with a joint investment of $150 million in Velodyne, a company that works on Light Detection and ranging (LiDAR). Ford also invested in $6.6 million for Civil Maps, a digital mapping company, not to mention money put towards neuroscience research.
What is interesting is that when Ford made this announcement, they did not mention Google. Considering they are the ones that are pioneering the self-driving technology, it is kind of surprising. Ford, like Google, is working on "Level 4" autonomy, which refers to the standards put in place by the US-based Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).
Level 4 is high automation, which means that the car is able to operate unmonitored in a particular case use. Level 5 is the goal, which is full autonomy in any driving condition. So far, Tesla's Autopilot, which can change lanes and monitor traffic flow, is only at Level 2. This level requires constant monitoring vs. a Level 3, which is requiring monitoring during emergencies.
According to Ford Media, Mark Fields states that "The next decade will be defined by automation of the automobile, and we see autonomous vehicles as having as significant an impact on society as Ford's moving assembly line did 100 years ago. We're dedicated to putting on the road an autonomous vehicle that can improve safety and solve social and environmental challenges for millions of people - not just those who can afford luxury vehicles."
It is interesting to see Ford pushing this autopilot technology. It is possible that Ford is trying to be first in it, because it is possible that whoever gets a hold of this technology will rule. After all, who doesn't want autopilots on our cars? Besides those that believe that they could be rather dangerous.
What is interesting is how if Ford perfects this technology, this will make Uber and Lyft completely null and void. That is, there would be any need for drivers if a driver is not needed. This is a pretty big business these days, however, the service that it provides will still be needed. So if you want to establish an Uber or Lyft business for yourself, all you need to do is buy a fleet of Ford cars in 2021.