While numerous companies are developing autonomous vehicles in one form or another, Ford has just stepped up to detail its own approach to self-driving cars.
Ford delivered a 44-page self-driving safety report titled “A Matter of Trust” to the U.S. Department of Transportation along with a letter from Sherif Marakby, CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles.
The report suggests that the central challenge in developing self-driving cars is not the technology but rather the trust in safety, reliability and experience enabled by the technology.
Ford sees a future with people and packages moving faster and more affordably in self-driving vehicles, but not necessarily in cars owned by individuals.
“Our self-driving vehicles won’t initially be sold to customers in the way that cars are today,” states the report, suggesting that consumers will more likely experience autonomous vehicles in commercial fleets, ride-hailing services and goods delivery.
Ford’s goal is to begin manufacturing a purpose-built self-driving vehicle in three years. Meanwhile, additional driver-assist technology, such as lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control, will continue to be further developed and deployed.
The automaker also seems realistic about the prospects of masses of consumers jumping on board the idea of replacing their current driving habits with those that are totally automated, with the report noting that self-driving vehicles may not be for everybody and the company is fine with that.
The report also smartly and candidly deals with the Arizona pedestrian fatality involving an Uber vehicle running in fully autonomous mode. Ford’s on-road testing includes two-person teams, one behind the wheel watching the road and the other monitoring the autonomous system on a laptop.
The smarter approaches to self-driving vehicles are focusing on using the vehicles to deliver things rather than becoming an item to be sold to consumers. For example, Ford has been working with Domino’s Pizza to determine what happens at the actual pizza-to-customer delivery moment, since there obviously is no person in the self-driving car to carry the pizza to the front door and ring the bell.
Self-driving vehicles are going to cause many transformations in consumer behaviors for some of the systems to succeed. In that context, the technology will be the relatively easy part.