Ford autonomous vehicles are coming, and Bill Ford says that the automaker isn’t in the autonomous vehicle slow lane. Ford is looking for other automakers to invest in Argo AI; it’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary, to help foot the bill for the cost of developing Ford autonomous vehicle technology. A deal with VW is said to be near. Autonomous vehicles are expected to change a lot about the auto market with some thinking that consumers will no longer buy vehicles, they will use them on an as needed bases similar to how the aviation industry works.
A Ford autonomous vehicle future where it operates more like an airline than a traditional automaker is being considered. Ford is seeking insight from the airline industry on how to prepare for a Ford autonomous vehicle as a service future. The reason that Ford is looking to the airline industry for advice is that the airlines know how to keep aircraft in the sky and sell seats needed to make the business profitable.
Sherif Marakby, CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC, says that autonomous vehicles are a per-mile business, not an ownership business. Ford is looking to start an autonomous driving business in 2021 using self-driving systems supplied by its Argo AI subsidiary. So far, Ford has invested over a billion into Argo AI. Marakby didn’t offer insight into what airlines Ford has talked to.
However, he did state that Ford learned a lot and that it has already integrated much of that into its business model. Marakby also noted that Ford is designing its first car to go “hundreds of thousands of miles” in a shorter period. He said that its the same as airlines using expensive aircraft and refurbishing them each year.
Ford has insight into making its vehicles run longer thanks to its law enforcement, taxi, and limousine businesses. Marakby said that Ford analyzed its Escape hybrids going back 15 years to see what breaks not at a typical 150,000 miles, but at half a million miles. The executive also notes that Ford won’t be participating in some delivery businesses with its autonomous cars because the opt-in rate is so low.