August 16, 2016
Ford Self-Driving Car By 2021 For Fleet Use

2021 for taxi-style usage in selected areas. This is level 4 automation: no human driver will be needed to take over. But the car won't be able to go everywhere. Likely that means the cars will be restricted to very well mapped areas without challenging conditions.

Ford says the higher cost of the computer and sensing equipment restricts its use to fleets which rack up very high mileage per vehicle per year. The car will be a more expensive piece of capital equipment that requires very high usage rates to pay the cost of capital.

I find the 2021 launch date to be a little surprising since Ford seems late to the party. On the other companies seem think they can prepare products to make them ready for market fairly quickly. For example, Delphi is trying to roll out a self-driving taxi service in Singapore in 2019 with a limited route and with greater capabilities later. MIT spin-out start-up nuTonomy is also working toward building an autonomous taxi fleet in Singapore. All of these companies are working toward deployment in limited driving areas and for taxi-style usage.

If the initial costs aren't too high then Cadillac, Mercedes, and other luxury car makers might come to market with level 4 autonomy near the time when autonomous taxis come on the market. If the luxury makers can support operation more areas than the taxi makers then elderly and otherwise disabled but affluent people would make a decent-sized market as well as on-the-go successful business types who want to spend their travel time working. If you are making millions of dollars per year then a $100k to $150k autonomous vehicle that freed up 30-90 minutes of commuting time for working could offer very good value.

Looks like fully autonomous vehicles for personal ownership are still 10 years out for most of us. Though a MotorTrend comparison of 4 partially autonomous vehicles shows we will get benefits short of full autonomy before then. A thought that struck me while reading the article: I want to be able to tune my future autonomous vehicle for greater safety. For example, tune it to not follow the car in front of me as closely as standard factory default specifies.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2016 August 16 08:56 PM 

bob sykes said at August 17, 2016 4:14 AM:

Autonomous cars look to be ideal for Uber and Lyft.

Brett Bellmore said at August 17, 2016 4:05 PM:

In my experience, if you don't follow the car in front of you closely, another car pulls into the space between the two of you. You slow down to open the gap, it happens again. And again.

Might even be more dangerous, because of all that lane changing in front of you.

Nick G said at August 19, 2016 11:25 AM:

2021 seems awfully late!

Uberís First Self-Driving Fleet Arrives in Pittsburgh This Month

Randall Parker said at August 27, 2016 8:48 PM:


I intentionally left out Uber's sorta-autonomous vehicle announcement. They need a taxi driver in the car ready to take over. All they are doing its getting their road tests paid for by passengers and getting publicity. This is not a sign that Uber is ready to go for full autonomy.

What we need: a sort of competition between all the autonomous vehicles out there to measure how the various rivals stack up.


Autonomous cars aren't really ideal for Uber so much as absolutely essential for Uber's survival. If Ford deploys truly autonomous riding service cars before Uber then Uber is sunk. Uber loses major market share in every city where Ford deploys.


Yes, that's the problem with autonomous cars: they've got to drive as aggressively as regular cars or they'll go much slower as other cars grab slots in front of them. Can they do this aggressive driving safely? Maybe more safely than humans if they can detect the need to apply the brakes sooner than humans and apply breaks faster than humans.

mrsizer said at August 31, 2016 11:42 AM:

Why does Uber need to build autonomous vehicles? Why would Ford want to run a taxi service? Ford builds them; Uber buys them.

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