It was only known recently that Ford had filed for an autonomous driving patent as published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. What is its content, you ask? A revolutionary tech in which any electric vehicle with a built in internal combustion engine could automatically start the said engine, and in turn it will recharge its own battery. The guys of the Blue Oval always think of everything, man. And now they have another plan up their sleeves -- Ford plans to manufacture the world's first autonomous vehicle sans a steering wheel and pedals by the year 2021, and will be targeting the ride hailing and ride sharing automobiles. What can we say, the future has arrived.
An issued Navigant Researcher Leaderboard report was recently revealed, ranking the major original equipment manufacturers according to their autonomous driving tech. Located on top of the list is Ford, trailing closely behind is GM, Renault-Nissan and Daimler, with Hyundai at number 10. But the other car maker and tech companies like Uber and Tesla are deemed as worthy competitors. Apparently, not many people agree or even know that Tesla is reigning in the autonomous car competition.
During the opening of WXC's keynote- Ken Washington, Ford's vice president of research and advanced engineering, announced he is not expecting Ford to release a fully autonomous automobile that is readily accessible to the public until 2026 at its earliest, and definitely not until 2031. For what it's worth, Washington indicated that Ford will further produce automobiles capable of 4 level autonomy on the SAE scale.
The said scale ranks self-driving techs into 6 separate categories- ranging from zero (meaning no autonomous capabilities) to 5 (meaning the car is fully autonomous, removing the need for a human intervention). Level 4 autonomy, which Ford is planning to produce, almost eliminates the need for a human driver. The shortened explanation by SAE International is that in level 4 vehicles, the driving mode specific performance by a built in Automated Driving System specifically oversees all aspects of the complicated driving task, even in a situation when a human driver does not readily respond appropriately to a request to intervene.
To sum it up, the driver can take control of the level 4 vehicle if there will be an untoward problem while on the go, but it is not deemed necessary. The built-in system can be capable of overseeing anything that will come its way. The variation of the Level 5 from level 4 is that human interference is not allowed.
Ford is looking for autonomous automobiles and other revolutionary techs to help solve problems in society like increasing traffic congestion, worsening air quality and ever changing client preferences. Ford's VP also reiterated that it is using such tech advancements in computing, brain-machine interfaces and data and analytics to help make that happen. The automotive company is reportedly expanding its research and innovation center in Palo Alto and plans to increase the team's size by the latter part of the year. But for now, we will take Ford's announcement with a grain of salt.