Ford exec casts doubt on Ghosn’s 2020 forecast on self-driving cars

Article by Eugene Conan, on March 6, 2014

Self-driving cars won’t hit the road by the end of the decade, so declared Ford's head of advance r&d in Europe, Pim van der Jagt. He expressed doubt on Carlos Ghosn's prediction that Renault-Nissan, or any carmaker -- will have autonomous vehicles ready by 2020.

"All automotive companies are more less moving at the same pace," Pim van der Jagt told Automotive News Europe, claiming that carmakers are still several years from handing over complete control. "The last 20 percent, when you could be fully asleep, that will be the most difficult."

Until then, van der Jagt says the move toward self-driving will be evolutionary, with each successive generation of cars handing over more or less a tenth of control to the next vehicle. He disclosed that Ford's next step after self-parking will be to introduce traffic-jam assistance -- an advanced version of adaptive cruise control that includes automatic steering.

Traffic-jam assistance will be available in Ford models in less than five years, according to van der Jagt. Next will be a high-speed self-driving on the highway, followed by country road driving, urban driving and finally a total autonomous driving.

Van der Jagt was in Barcelona, Spain for at the Mobile World Congress, where Ford showcased its Fusion-based automated research vehicle for the first time in Europe.

The research vehicle includes expensive spinning lidar (like radar, but with light) units on the roof that built up a 3-D map of the surrounding area. The map was projected onto a screen for attendees to see how the autonomous vehicle sees them.

Ford's research into self-driving has been conducted mostly in the US, but van der Jagt's research center in Aachen, Germany will play a greater role once Ford created a connection with the local university to push forward development. [source: automotive news - sub. required]

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