Ford Motor Co is really making the push for driverless cars, announcing that it aims to make fully autonomous cars available for sale by 2021. But if you’re a ‘first adopter’, don’t get your hopes up too high yet. According to Ford Chief Executive Officer, Mark Fields, the first autonomous cars will be used for ride hailing and ride sharing. Consumer versions will only be available after that; no timeline was revealed.
This move comes on the heels of General Motors’ purchase of Cruise Automation and its US$ 500 million investment in Lyft, a ride-hailing business earlier this year, as well as Volkswagen’s stake in Gett, a similar business in Europe.
This also comes after a fatal accident in May involving Tesla’s beta version of Autopilot. Despite this, the US Department of Transportation is expected to issue new guidelines for autonomous vehicles soon.
Though there is now pressure to deliver on its word, Ford is confident it can achieve its target of putting autonomous cars on the road. In its bid to meet the deadline, Ford is planning to double its staff strength to 300 and will be expanding its labs in Palo Alto, California.
Ford is also chipping in US$ 75 million to Velodyne LiDAR, Inc., a firm it has been working with on self-driving technology for some time; Chinese Internet behemoth, Baidu is putting in the same amount in Velodyne. Additionally, Ford has invested in Civil Maps, a company which utilizes artificial intelligence in digital map making; bought SAIPS, a computer vision company and entered into an exclusive agreement with Nirenberg Neuroscience to use its machine vision technology, which is claimed to have restored sight in the visually impaired.