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Ford CEO: ‘We Overestimated The Arrival Of Autonomous Vehicles’

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You can go on Ford’s website right now and find this exact statement: “Ford will have a fully autonomous vehicle in operation by 2021.”

It’s a lofty goal, to be certain, but to the less informed, it doesn’t seem impossible. After all, Ford has a ton of cash and all the necessary resources to throw at the self-driving car problem.

The reality is, though, that fully autonomous cars that can drive themselves 100% of the time will probably never be implemented en masse, and it seems that Ford CEO Jim Hackett is beginning to realize this.

Ford AV test vehicle in Washington, DC

Speaking at an event hosted by the Detroit Economic Club on Tuesday, Hackett admitted that he and other automotive industry experts “overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles.”

The Ford CEO also downplayed expectations for automaker’s forthcoming “fully autonomous vehicle” at the event. This won’t be a car that you can just hop in and say “take me to x location.” It will be designed to operate within a very specific geographical area, as it is currently too hard to program an AV to operate in an environment it has not been programmed for.

“Its applications will be narrow, what we call geo-fenced, because the problem is so complex,” Hackett said.

It’s hard to be “fully” autonomous with such limitations in place, so perhaps we should call Ford’s 2021 effort “partially fully autonomous” for now?

The automaker had a slightly different stance with regard to the viability of AVs in January of last year. During a keynote address at CES 2018, Ford vice president of capital markets Jim Farley indicated that the self-driving car set to arrive for 2021 will quickly lead to an autonomous vehicle business for Ford.

“The work we’re doing (in 2018) will put us in a position to scale quickly with a self-driving business in 2021 that prioritizes the human experience,” Farley said.

It’s not clear how the automaker plans to make money with the geofenced AV at this time.

Ford AVs operating in snow

Late last year, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said that AVs that can drive themselves on any road, in any weather and at any time of the day may never happen. He also acknowledged that it may be decades before automakers can put them on public roads in very large numbers. Waymo, an offshoot of Google, is believed to be the industry leader in AV development, having racked up more mileage than any other self-driving company.

Source: Bloomberg

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Written by Sam McEachern

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4 Comments

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  1. Ford didn’t “overestimate” the arrival of autonomous vehicles, they seen how well Musk was doing lying his butt off , and decided to do the same. This is the problem with investors being tolerant of exaggerations and straight up malarkey. Any idiot could guess that “fully autonomous” is about 30 years away. Most Alabama highways have neither reflectors, fresh road markings, or cell phone reception . You can even fall in and out of gps reception. I suspect there are a lot of places that are similar in America. Even the best supercomputer packed with sensors would struggle on a dirt road. Best folks can hope for is parlor tricks like Caddilac or Tesla offers. However Hacket’s Ford isn’t doing any better than Fields, so he started a strategy of “bold moves” and bull crap to keep his job.

  2. Until the roads and infrastructure in general are restored to where they need to be autonomous cars will be nothing more than carnival rides

  3. GM’s Mary Barra must have a massive migraine headache after hearing Mr. Hackett’s admission that AV’s are not going to be the cash cow that Wall Street predicted.

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