Ford’s chief technology officer (CTO) brushed off naysayers and claimed that driverless cars will reach the masses, during a speech at consumer technology event CES in Vegas yesterday.
Raj Nair was adamant that autonomous driving would become mainstream - and that Ford had already made significant steps to do so.
“We’re already manufacturing and selling semi-autonomous vehicles that use software and sensors to steer into both parallel and perpendicular parking spaces, adjust speed based on traffic flow or apply the brakes in an emergency,” Nair said.
“There will be a Ford autonomous vehicle in the future, and we take putting one on the road very seriously.”
Ford is currently road testing a driverless car that uses LiDAR sensors to generate a 3D map of its surrounding environment so that the vehicle can sense objects around it. Algorithms are “learning” to predict where vehicles and pedestrians are likely to move to enhance safety.
Ford’s chief executive officer Mark Fields said: “Our priority is not in making marketing claims or being in a race for the first autonomous car on the road. Our priority is in making the first Ford autonomous vehicle accessible to the masses and truly enhancing customers’ lives.”
Technology trials launched on London's streets
The comments came as the carmaker launched a series of technology-driven experiments for London’s streets.
Ford will trial its telematics offering, named ‘Data Driven Insurance’ which allows drivers to remotely check fuel levels and the health of their car through a smartphone app. It also “enables users to remotely check the location of their vehicle”, should they feel the need.
The firm said the data it gathers through this app could be used to "help identify potential congestion and help authorities improve traffic flow". Ford announced an appointment of a chief data officer at the end of last year.
Telecos have spoken in depth about the possibilities black box insurance could bring for city planning.
Pavan Matthew, head of the connected car division at Telefonica told ComputerworldUK “at many telematics conferences I’m seeing more and more representatives from urban planning and regulators asking to work together [with telematics providers]”
Two further London experiments were launched today, including a car-sharing service and an app that was developed with local authorities to find parking spots. The app alerts drivers to free spaces based on a driver’s pre-requisites and GPS location and the local authority’s parking data.
The trials are part of a wider global “Smart Mobility Plan” launched this morning.
Autumn Statement 2014: Driverless car trials in the UK with Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and Tata gets funding boost
Image: Ford's Car on Demand Service with contactless payment. Credit: Ford