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Ford to Build Fully Autonomous Cars for Ride Sharing by 2021

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author photo by James Riswick August 2016

Ford announced it intends to build fully autonomous cars by 2021, with the intention for them to be used by commercial mobility service companies, such as Uber, Lyft and other ride sharing or hailing services. They would not be available for consumer purchase.

Ford indicated they would be Level 4 autonomous cars, using the standardized definition and scale established by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International. This high automation level, the fourth of five, indicates there will be no steering wheel, accelerator or gas pedal controlled by a human, whether it's for preference or as an emergency backup. What differs Level 4 from Level 5 is that not every possible driving scenario is accounted for, such as operating off a mapped route.

Ford's plan to pair autonomous vehicles with ride sharing seems to be an increasingly likely glimpse into our transportation future. Logically, many consumers would no longer need to buy a car, while the ride sharing service would no longer need to pay drivers (and the consumer won't need to be chauffeured by a stranger of potentially dubious skill and area knowledge). Also, since the vehicles wouldn't be owned, operated and maintained by individuals, Ford could, in theory, limit its liability in the event of an accident caused by a vehicle system that failed due to a lack of maintenance.

Volvo and Uber recently announced a partnership to provide autonomous vehicles to users in the Pittsburgh area, while General Motors has ties to ride sharing, as well.

Ford noted that a ride sharing service that utilized its autonomous cars would ideally have them available in high volumes, and they'd be restricted to geo-fenced areas. In regard to the latter, you probably won't be able to hail a ride in Washington, D.C., and ask it to drive you an hour and a half to Baltimore.

To make its 2021 target a reality, Ford also announced it acquired, invested in and secured exclusive agreements with several hardware, software and neuroscience companies. It will also double the size of the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto, California, which opened in January 2015.

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Ford to Build Fully Autonomous Cars for Ride Sharing by 2021 - Autotrader