That’s the conclusion of a recent study by Navigant Research, says USA Today, which said that Ford’s outlook regarding self-driving cars is stronger than competitors due to both “strategic investments,” like its big gambles on Velodyne LiDAR and Argo AI, and the “development of supporting business models,” i.e. most anything that falls under the umbrella of “Smart Mobility.”
Ford Executive VP and CTO Raj Nair told USA Today that Ford’s rise in the annual Navigant Research study is “an 11-year overnight success story,” referring to Ford’s entry into the DARPA Grand Challenge for robotic cars 11 years ago. Ford didn’t even break into the top five companies for autonomous-vehicle outlook in 2015.
Ford is planning on rolling out an autonomous vehicle for ride-sharing and ride-hailing fleets in 2021, although it will be an SAE Level 4 vehicle, one level below full autonomy. The vehicle will be able to accelerate, brake, steer, and navigate without any human assistance, but only within a specific, pre-mapped area, and not while adverse weather conditions obscure visibility.