Everyone knows driverless cars are coming, but now we have an actual time frame of when you might actually be able to ride in one. That’s because today (Aug. 17) at its research center in Palo Alto, Ford announced that it will deliver fully autonomous ride-sharing vehicles in 2021.
The key difference between Ford’s plan and other self-driving tech, such as Tesla’s autopilot feature, is that Ford claims its upcoming cars will be fully autonomous SAE level 4 vehicles. By comparison, Tesla’s semi-autonomous autopilot feature only earns a level 2 rating.
That means passengers in Ford's car should be able to go from start to finish without ever controlling the vehicle. And depending on how far Ford’s tech advances over the next 5 years, the vehicle may not even come with a steering or pedals in the vehicle.
However, Ford made no mention of being able to purchase these cars individually, so people hoping to buy their own autonomous vehicles may have to wait a little longer.
Another big part of the announcement is that Ford is investing heavily in four research companies to help develop its tech, rather than reach out to other big name players such as Google or Apple. This looks like it will set up Ford as a direct competitor to the tech giants which have working on their own self-driving tech for years and could pose a threat to traditional carmakers who may be a bit behind in the tech department.
Ford also said that its plans to expand its self-driving fleet to 30 autonomous cars by the end of the year, before tripling that number again in 2017.
With this announcement, Ford is looking to really drive home the point that it’s no longer just a car company anymore. And with new driving apps such as Ford Pass, the company could have an entire ecosystem built to support its autonomous apps by the time they hit in 2021.