Ford: High Volume, Fully Autonomous Vehicle For 2021 – No Driver Required

AUG 16 2016 BY JAY COLE 88

Today, Ford announced that it will produce a high-volume, fully autonomous SAE level 4-capable vehicle for operation in 2021.

Ford Fusion Mule Gets The Autonomous Testing Equipment Treatment

Ford Fusion Mule Gets The Autonomous Testing Equipment Treatment

Naturally this announcement was made from Ford’s Palo Alto, California campus (a hot bed for the tech) – a location it says it will not only continue to invest in, but also collaborate with four different startups to keep its autonomous vehicle development program moving along.

It total, Ford will double its Silicon Valley head-count, as well as physically double the size of the facility – which is expected to be complete by mid-2017. Over the next several years Ford will be focusing on advanced algorithms, 3D mapping, and devoloping LiDAR technology, as well as radar and camera sensors.

The vehicles will be first put into commercial operation for ride-hailing and ride-sharing in under 5 years time.

Ford CEO Mark Fields:

“Ford will be mass producing vehicles, with full autonomy within 5 years.  And that means there will be no steering wheel, no gas pedals, and no brake pedals.  A driver is not going to be required.  And in fact, we see autonomous vehicles as having as significant an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did more than 100 years ago.”

Below (video):  Full live stream video of the Ford announcement (from the 1:20 mark), plus full Ford press statement

Ford Press Release on Autonomy in 2021

Ford looks for autonomy, in mass production form, in 2021

Ford looks for autonomy, in mass production form, in 2021

FORD TARGETS FULLY AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE FOR RIDE SHARING IN 2021; INVESTS IN NEW TECH COMPANIES, DOUBLES SILICON VALLEY TEAM

  • Ford announces intention to deliver high-volume, fully autonomous vehicle for ride sharing in 2021
  • Ford investing in or collaborating with four startups on autonomous vehicle development
  • Company also doubling Silicon Valley team and more than doubling Palo Alto campus

PALO ALTO, Calif., Aug. 16, 2016 – Ford today announces its intent to have a high-volume, fully autonomous SAE level 4-capable vehicle in commercial operation in 2021 in a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service.

Ford Fusion testing out future autonomous tech in California today

Ford Fusion testing out future autonomous tech in California today

To get there, the company is investing in or collaborating with four startups to enhance its autonomous vehicle development, doubling its Silicon Valley team and more than doubling its Palo Alto campus.

“The next decade will be defined by automation of the automobile, and we see autonomous vehicles as having as significant an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did 100 years ago,” said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO. “We’re dedicated to putting on the road an autonomous vehicle that can improve safety and solve social and environmental challenges for millions of people – not just those who can afford luxury vehicles.”

Autonomous vehicles in 2021 are part of Ford Smart Mobility, the company’s plan to be a leader in autonomous vehicles, as well as in connectivity, mobility, the customer experience, and data and analytics.

Driving autonomous vehicle leadership
Building on more than a decade of autonomous vehicle research and development, Ford’s first fully autonomous vehicle will be a Society of Automotive Engineers-rated level 4-capable vehicle without a steering wheel or gas and brake pedals. It is being specifically designed for commercial mobility services, such as ride sharing and ride hailing, and will be available in high volumes.

“Ford has been developing and testing autonomous vehicles for more than 10 years,” said Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, Global Product Development, and chief technical officer. “We have a strategic advantage because of our ability to combine the software and sensing technology with the sophisticated engineering necessary to manufacture high-quality vehicles. That is what it takes to make autonomous vehicles a reality for millions of people around the world.”

Ford's new base of autonomous operations in Palo Alto, California

Ford’s new base of autonomous operations in Palo Alto, California

This year, Ford will triple its autonomous vehicle test fleet to be the largest test fleet of any automaker – bringing the number to about 30 self-driving Fusion Hybrid sedans on the roads in California, Arizona and Michigan, with plans to triple it again next year.

Ford was the first automaker to begin testing its vehicles at Mcity, University of Michigan’s simulated urban environment, the first automaker to publicly demonstrate autonomous vehicle operation in the snow and the first automaker to test its autonomous research vehicles at night, in complete darkness, as part of LiDAR sensor development.

Ford Fusion AV

Ford Fusion AV

To deliver an autonomous vehicle in 2021, Ford is announcing four key investments and collaborations that are expanding its strong research in advanced algorithms, 3D mapping, LiDAR, and radar and camera sensors:

  • Velodyne: Ford has invested in Velodyne, the Silicon Valley-based leader in light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensors. The aim is to quickly mass-produce a more affordable automotive LiDAR sensor. Ford has a longstanding relationship with Velodyne, and was among the first to use LiDAR for both high-resolution mapping and autonomous driving beginning more than 10 years ago
  • SAIPS: Ford has acquired the Israel-based computer vision and machine learning company to further strengthen its expertise in artificial intelligence and enhance computer vision. SAIPS has developed algorithmic solutions in image and video processing, deep learning, signal processing and classification. This expertise will help Ford autonomous vehicles learn and adapt to the surroundings of their environment
  • Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC: Ford has an exclusive licensing agreement with Nirenberg Neuroscience, a machine vision company founded by neuroscientist Dr. Sheila Nirenberg, who cracked the neural code the eye uses to transmit visual information to the brain. This has led to a powerful machine vision platform for performing navigation, object recognition, facial recognition and other functions, with many potential applications. For example, it is already being applied by Dr. Nirenberg to develop a device for restoring sight to patients with degenerative diseases of the retina. Ford’s partnership with Nirenberg Neuroscience will help bring humanlike intelligence to the machine learning modules of its autonomous vehicle virtual driver system
  • Civil Maps: Ford has invested in Berkeley, California-based Civil Maps to further develop high-resolution 3D mapping capabilities. Civil Maps has pioneered an innovative 3D mapping technique that is scalable and more efficient than existing processes. This provides Ford another way to develop high-resolution 3D maps of autonomous vehicle environments

Silicon Valley expansion
Ford also is expanding its Silicon Valley operations, creating a dedicated campus in Palo Alto.

Adding two new buildings and 150,000 square feet of work and lab space adjacent to the current Research and Innovation Center, the expanded campus grows the company’s local footprint and supports plans to double the size of the Palo Alto team by the end of 2017.

“Our presence in Silicon Valley has been integral to accelerating our learning and deliverables driving Ford Smart Mobility,” said Ken Washington, Ford vice president, Research and Advanced Engineering. “Our goal was to become a member of the community. Today, we are actively working with more than 40 startups, and have developed a strong collaboration with many incubators, allowing us to accelerate development of technologies and services.”

Since the new Ford Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto opened in January 2015, the facility has rapidly grown to be one of the largest automotive manufacturer research centers in the region. Today, it is home to more than 130 researchers, engineers and scientists, who are increasing Ford’s collaboration with the Silicon Valley ecosystem.

Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto’s multi-disciplinary research and innovation facility is the newest of nearly a dozen of Ford’s global research, innovation, IT and engineering centers. The expanded Palo Alto campus opens in mid-2017.

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88 Comments on "Ford: High Volume, Fully Autonomous Vehicle For 2021 – No Driver Required"

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first step to outlawing human drivers. I regretfully welcome it, as much as I enjoy driving, the cost of one life is not worth the driving enjoyment of millions.

I suspect impossible to afford insurance will kill manual drive cars without any legislation required.

I am sure you are understanding exactly all the permutations of the problem, the consequences, an outcomes fully, to make such a statement.

People will continue to drive manually for a long, long, time (decades). Though manual transmissions are all but gone.

Come to Europe and be surprised that manual transmission is very far from being gone

Ford, GM, Tesla and the rest aren’t going to want individually owned cars running around in the cities, that’ll be competition to them.

It’ll take a while but I suspect new “safety” regulations will economically squeeze you out of car ownership over the next 15 years or so.

Say hello to the new age. Say goodbye to your car.

There will still be human driven cars for a while because the fun and the social standing, and the privacy.

Yeah, those things are important. Parties, the social aspects, but for me, the main question is, where would I live?

I think there is more future in cars that are still driven manually but with an AP standing by just in case than something goes wrong a real ban on manual driving.

Correction:

I think there is more future in cars that are still driven manually but with an AP standing by, just in case that something goes wrong, than a real ban on manual driving.

I’m sure they will implement a mode like “guided driving”, where you have the illusion to be in control of the car (steer a little to the left/right, accelerate/slow down a little). But as soon as you do something not considered safe, the car will take over 😉

Aside from that, I think you are absolutely correct.

calm down people! this is a public relations positioning statement. ford made this announcement to position itself as being innovative in the minds of the public. ford doesn’t actually control whether or not autonomous vehicle will actually get sold to the public.

I watched a video with the Google car chief telling the audience his 11 year old was due to get a driver’s license in 5 years, but he’s doing everything in his power to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Eventually, driving a car will become just like riding a horse. You’ll do it for entertainment at purpose built facilities. A very small percentage will remain Human-Controlled for various reasons (much like horses are today.)

Of course horses were the original “autopilots”.

Ha. Yeah, they frequently fail to the “oat mode”. Take your hands off the wheel and they’ll steer themselves to the oats.

Yeah, I do 10-20 track days a year, that’s where all the enjoyment is. Daily driving is such a drag. I can’t WAIT for AVs to take over the daily drive. There are so many great little bars, restaurants, shops, etc. that I’d frequent so much more if parking and traffic wasn’t such a hassle.

You can still ride a horse on public roads.

But you have a hard time finding a hitching rail or hitching post in front of most stores, restaurants, or bars these days. And when you do see one, it’s usually just for atmosphere at a “western” outfitter store or western-themed restaurant.

90% autopilot is easy
99% is possible today
99.9% is extremely difficult (5 years away)
100% I just don’t see happening without V2V communication

I think the bigest problem self driving cars will have is pedestrians and cyclists not other cars…
So I dont see v2v as a big issue but I do see v2v as a big security hole…

There are so many edge-cases, we can’t even think of them all. There are unknown unkowns. And the “knowns” change depending on which country/region you are in, and what the weather is like.

It’s going to take time, and maybe a big step-change in AI to cover these scenarios.

I can think of one scenario that seems almost unsurmountable for autonomous cars. Dropping my child off to the first day of school in carpool.

Traffic backed up both directions for blocks on a small street with multiple entrances and exits with multiple traffic police directing drivers not just with their hands but body motion and eyes. Essentially a traffic jam that is under controlled chaos by subtle human body language.

Then once in the parking area following parallel lanes of cars with no lane markings with only drivers “knowing” that they are supposed to stay in two lanes side by side as we wind around the parking lot full of parked cars.

Then arriving at the pickup point with a teacher gesturing for the front two cars that are parallel with each other to stop and wait while kids are loaded into the front group of 6 cars.

Then the teacher gesturing for those cars to pull away while the next 6 pull up and stop.

I honestly can’t imagine how any autonomous program could understand this situation when many of the human parents among those hundreds of cars couldn’t themselves.

That’s EXACTLY the situation that AVs will solve. Take the idiot drivers out of the equation and thinks get much smoother.

I don’t know. My point is that the parents were given fairly vague instructions, i.e. “when you come into the parking lot make 2 lanes side by side and follow the first row of parking until the first turn and then turn left. At pickup in afternoon we need more room so the church next door that shares part of the parking will allow us to use their roundabout to extend the line.”

How do you “tell” a car this without having to experiencing it first simultaneously with all the other parents. You could program it in somehow but you would need to go on site to do so for at least the first time. And again the cars would have to be able to read the traffic police’s body language and the teachers giving verbal instructions at the point of pickup.

Even then there are multiple times when as a person driving I will be courteous and allow someone to go ahead of me or someone will wave me ahead according to the dynamic situation at hand if a child is taking a long time to load.

“I honestly can’t imagine how any autonomous program could understand this situation when many of the human parents among those hundreds of cars couldn’t themselves.”

This sort of thing is why I say that for fully autonomous driving, we need a wireless traffic control system, with nodes like cell phone towers (or perhaps located in existing cell phone towers), to coordinate autonomous vehicle traffic in situations where priority and right-of-way queues need to be created.

In fact, a computerized system with central nodes for local control would handle things like you describe much more smoothly than using teachers or security guards to communicate with human drivers using hand signals. Self-driving cars are going to cooperate to make traffic flow smoothly; the exact opposite of human drivers creating traffic jams by competing with each other.

To get to 100% in 100% of the situations, including mid speed in the city with no markings in a crazy dense place like Paris or London and police taking presence on traffic lights quiet often, plus road works at different places, it will take nothing less than a real AI like Ava in Ex-Machina. But then again she may not be happy being limited to playing driver for some biologic.

Or maybe all it needs is cities to put up short-range wireless transmitters along the side of the road in certain places, to communicate with self-driving cars, giving them directions on which way to go and what areas to treat as obstacles.

Construction zones would need temporarily placed transmitters of this type, which would be placed and then removed just like orange safety cones in construction zones.

We need to think outside the box here, and think about how to get data to the car’s computer… and not require that autonomous cars have true A.I.; that they have a human understanding of the world. Because that is much, much further than a mere 5 years off, and requires software much too complex for what mere self-driving cars need.

In short: The autonomous car revolution will result in roads being adapted to the needs of self-driving cars, just as they were adapted to the needs of the automobile when cars began replacing horses. We didn’t need speed limit signs and lane markings on highways back in the horse-and-buggy era!

What is notably absent from this report (I can’t be bothered to watch the presentation) is the word “electric”. Are these cars supposed to be gasoline powered? How will that work, will there be fully autonomous gas stations as well?

Yup – as soon as I saw the title I immediately skimmed the article for some relationship to an electrified car.

Not even a mention of a 100% gasoline fueled hybrid.

At the time, I wondered whether “PlugInCars” (Ben Berman’s thing) would also include CNG cars since the compressor is usually electric, and you plug in the fill hose in your garage. I was told, no, that ‘site’ was only for plug in electrics.

Must be a broader category here – Plug in Hydrogen cars (of course) (but curiously no plug in CNG – which are much more efficient and economical, both to run and purchase – plus its something the homeowner does at home, and, they usually use electricity for the fill compressor at home, anyway).

Now – I guess its a related topic since the autonomous stuff runs on the 12 volt car battery.

If they are not electric they are simply planing to fail as it states the first cars will be directed for comerical use who will look at TCO which will be blanetly evident by then…
TCO is already lower for Tesla taxis now…

They will all be electric. It the autonomous car that will kill Big Oil at the end, not the environmental emergencies.

Autonomous fleet cars will all be electric because of their convenience, efficiency and TOC.
A fleet of autonomous cars with gasoline cars are doomed from the beginning. No possible competition.

That will make the established gas car makers to at last compete… i mean… REALLY compete. Look at GM with Lyft, now Ford, they will all follow pretty soon.
But Tesla is well ahead of the pack… as usual…

I’d say more like “suspiciously absent”, … which probably means they’re planning on an all electric drivetrain.

There were several items in the presentation that were very much set up in contrast to Tesla (without mentioning Tesla). It would be hard to portray themselves as the technology leader in this new automotive age AND talk about an electric drivetrain at at the same time.

Since aerial refueling exist there could certainly be a possibility to do an automatic gas station. Playing devil’s advocate, it would also be possible to further reduce fill up time to just a few seconds like in Formula 1 instead of 3 to 5 minutes. But, the real challenge is starting the gas engine while making sure its exhaust comes out in open air, not in a closed garage. I guess you could do that by having a distance measurement for height, width and length. If the product of those 3 gives a volume smaller than a set value, the engine would only run for a set limited time. It would also be possible to refine that by having an actual Carbon Monoxide level measurement in the air. GPS would also give an important indication to know if the car is outside or in a confined space. So gas or EV, any car could be involved in self driving. There is no specific requirement for a self driving car to be electric. Self driving is something completely independent from the gas to ev transition, just like the fact that autopilot is independent from propeller driven plane or jet propulsion plane.

leading from the back? all they do is steal from tesla and slow it down. hoping i am wrong.

So Ford sent in there spies and is conducting corporate esponiage??
Or Ford hacked there computers to steal there codes, designes, and meeting notes??

Because Tesla employes the only capable engineers in the world??

Oh I forgot they are slowing it down too…

So they wiped their computers after they stole the code??
And their spies fill Tesla with bad ideas to lead them off track!!

if they hire a bunch of prominent tesla engineers they will slow down progress at tesla. KT is a good concept.

It may be worse than leading from the back, if you think about it. Just like electric drive is more luxurious, autonomous drive is a luxury option. Are we hearing about Ford going Level 4, there? No. Ford, and to an extent GM and the other OEMs, are trying to paint all this stuff as “City-only”. I read yet another attempt to marginalize anything that threatens, well, margins.

I don’t think these cars will be safer than humans. Maybe the problem is we aren’t taking enough people’s licenses away.

You have a very narrow minded and dangerous point of view. Of course autonomous vehicles will be safer! I see wrecks almost daily that could have been prevented currently available autonomous features like Adaptive Cruise Control.

I’m not saying that autonomous vehicles will be perfect. But there is one thing you can do with autonomous vehicles that you can’t do with humans, reprogram them to drive better. There are many people that you will never get to drive better and safer no matter what you do.

Sorry but I don’t see how an effective AEB car can be brought into collision with another car or any object. If it does the AEB is not working as intended. It may be that the AEB start to reduce the car speed more than what the driver would want or that the AEB refuse a steering toward a tree but if the AEB always runs the forward distance versus emergency brake distance equation and implement the maximum speed accordingly, the car just can’t crash.

Except if suddenly intersected at a cross with insufficient time to brake. A bit like the Florida Model S case actually.

5 years sounds way too optimistic. I mean Ford aren’t even leaders in that field now. I think 10 years is more likely, and it won’t be Ford leading the way either way.

Indubitable.

Ford may not be the leaders but 10 years is pure comedy…
Ford as is everyone else has been working on self driving cars for several years…

And we wont know who the true leaders are until fully self driving cars hit the road…
Where the auto companies stand right now is pure specilation but most likely Tesla, GM, and Nissan…

The first automaker to set a date on autonomous vehicle production. Ford must be really confident.

Given the state of things, and Ford’s ambitious time frame, I’ll bet these will be restricted area vehicles that will not stray from their very modest assigned areas. (Like downtown areas, from the airport to the casino, hotel to the conference center, etc.). It’s going to be a lot longer before anyone releases broad ranging autonomous vehicles. But the operating zones will evolve and grow rapidly once the local routes are defined, served, and proven in real world use.

Wow. Ford’s Press Office is the MOST PRODUCTIVE Department in the Company!!!

Hey, Ford, how about you get on the Telephone ( or Skype ) your battery supplier and simply UPGRADE THE BATTERIES on the CMax and the Fusion?

You know Real World Upgrades.
How about the CMAX get Automatic Collision Prevention and Cruise Control!
That’s not rocket science.

Ford was able to focus on technology while GM and Chrysler were struggling to get out of bankruptcy. Ford was first of the big 3 to come out with Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping Assist on high volume cars. It doesn’t surprise me at all that Ford wants to be a leader in autonomous vehicles.

I’m sorry to say it but I think autonomous vehicles are going to proliferate much faster than electric vehicles. Electric vehicles are not supposed to achieve 30% market penetration until the 2030-40 time frame. If autonomous vehicles can make it into production by 2021 then I can see a majority of new vehicles with advanced autonomous features by 2030.

The impetuous for autonomous vehicles is much different than for electric vehicles. For one thing there’s a big push for autonomous vehicles by the governments to make driving safer. For another, once the technical issues get address, the economics issues for autonomous vehicles won’t be near as daunting as they are for electric vehicles (no charging infrastructure problems).

I disagree on the economics.

I think you’ll see Ford’s autonomous fleet consists of mostly EV drivetrains. “Geo-fenced” into dense urban areas — EV fleets will be the easiest to engineer and will return the biggest profits to Ford due to the lower manufacturing, maintenance and fuel costs.

/add,…

I wouldn’t be surprised if the “range extender” design ends up being preferred for autonomous taxis. Usually all electric with 60kwh(?) pack, wireless charging and a REX for when the going gets tough (hot weather, cold weather, unexpected surge in demand and can’t get back to charging spot as often/long as normally expected).

My Fusion already has Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping Assist. All it needs is a little more instrumentation and a better processor and it could be fully autonomous. The investment requirement for electric cars is massive, complete redesigns of models and manufacturing lines plus the development of a complete, universal fast charging infrastructure.

No I think you’re wrong, the economics of electric vehicles is much more daunting.

“…All it needs is a little more instrumentation and a better processor and it could be fully autonomous….”

That’s a joke… right?

Sounds like you have never driven a car with Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping Assist.

— All the new sensors — The harness to connect the sensors — the mounting points and protective covers for the sensors — the power electronics to run and monitor the sensors — the redundant sensors and their mounts — the new computer will probably need more power, more cooling, more storage (way more) — all the cloud connectivity that will be required (and likely monitoring from “mission control”) — whatever safety systems that will be in place when components/systems fail and .. As you mentioned, Ford is going for the full level 5 (which I”m going to guess they’ll have to back off of and accept level 4 if they’re going to get in with the rest of the competition in a timely fashion) … level 5 is going to take a lot more redundancy in all of the systems because you don’t have a human to take over when something fails. Which brings me to my last point. Autonomous drive surely works a lot better/ more easily with electric drive than a piston engine. Feedback loops would be greatly simplified and response is more predictable. Also (again with the level 5) they’re going to want to eliminate as… Read more »

Almost every autonomous test mule you see (Ford, GM, Nissan, whoever) is either an EV or a Hybrid. Do you ever wonder why that is?

Not really, why do you think it is?

In addition to the reasons I mentioned above, there will be continued pressure for emission free zones in (primarily european) dense urban centers — prime operating real estate for autonomous fleets.

You logic has no foundation in reality. Some of the best autonomous systems on the market today are on gas cars (Mercedes, Volvo, etc.), not electric or hybrid vehicles. Almost all Ford models are available with advanced autonomous features and the model with the best autonomous features, the Ford Edge, is not even available as a hybrid.

Your theory that a car has to be electric or hybrid to be autonomous just doesn’t hold water. As for as the Level 5 ride share cars that charge themselves, it’s going to be a very, very long time, if ever, before they make up a significant share of the market.

“Your theory that a car has to be electric or hybrid to be autonomous…”

I never said that.

Mercedes is building a “hut” architecture. A skateboard of batteries that can slide under any body style. … just like Faraday future has announced.

The logical “theory” here is that Mercedes (like Faraday) is planning for an autonomous future, they just don’t yet know what form the vehicles will end up taking.

——–
““We are going to transform the world. It will astonish you,” Schenk says. He claims the flexibility of the new architecture means any body style — he calls it “the hut” — can sit on top of the electric drive platform. It could be a luxury sedan or an SUV. It will be engineered so it can be built in any existing Mercedes factory. That is pretty much the same claim that Faraday Future is making for its cars.”

http://gas2.org/2016/06/11/will-change-world-mercedes-exec/

add, Ford has already announced the new “Model E” which will consist of a whole new architecture.

Any bets on whether this will be a “flexible platform battery skateboard” for as well?

They claim 5 years, but that means 15 years in real terms…

I hope it comes in 5 years so my 80 yr old parents might still have a chance for some mobility.

It may happen but it will be the type of autononomous driving that still requires you to have both hands on the wheel. In other words, basically useless except as a fail safe.

Actually Level 4, which is what Ford is proposing, is fully autonomous and can control the vehicle the entire trip, no hands required but can be driven by a human. . Level 5 doesn’t even have a steering wheel.

Mark Fields says no steering wheel, no gas pedal, no brake pedal, right in the little one minute video.

That must be some kind of miss print or miss quote. Level 4 is High Automation. Level 5 is Full Automation.

There are only 5 levels. The highest level is full automation being level 4.

No auto feature at all is level 0.

If you hit the Level 4 link in the article you go straight to the SAE autonomous web page. The web page actually lists six autonomous levels; 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5.

I sat through the 27 minute video and it’s pretty clear that Ford defines Level 4 as not having driver controls. The SAE definitions on autonomous levels are pretty loose but most people assume Level 4 will at least have driver controls. I wonder what differences Ford see between Level 4 and Level 5.

The only thing I can think of is maybe Ford sees Level 5 vehicles as not having any passenger compartment at all. Not having a passenger compartment would make a lot of sense for trucking and package delivery. I wonder if Ford is working on building trucks without any passenger compartment.

I’ve seen autonomous classifications described as 1-5 or 0-4 so maybe Ford uses the latter. (?)

The video did mention that Ford was working on developing Level 4 AND Level 5 autonomous systems but did state that Level 4 system would not have a steering wheel or pedals.

The big difference on the SAE website between the Level 3 and Level 4 system is that fallback control goes to the human for Level 3 and goes to the system in Level 4. This doesn’t mean to me that the vehicle can’t have human controls, it just means that the system takes over if the vehicle gets in trouble. I can see that Ford might not want human controls on a Level 4 system so the system won’t to fight the human for control, possibly hurting the human.

Ford’s approach has been to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s, before they go in whole hog. I think that is a needed, valid, systematic approach to the problem.
Plenty of room to proceed slowly and methodically, as long as you progress.

There is time pressure here.

There’s only so many “hot” markets (the bigger city centers). If you’re late to the game you could be blocked out and trying to chisel your way in at a later date could be expensive and risky.

(and why we already see the OEM’s scrambling for a Uber or Lyft partnership)

Yep, totally opposite to the Tesla model of put the sensors on all the cars now and release the software as we get it figured out.

Ford has the luxury of massive ICE profits, so taking taking the very slow approach is possible. They can also cancel it without releasing the vehicle if car sharing + driverless turns out to be a fad (unlikely).

I haven’t see any concept car that can hide the LiDAR sensors. Is this the future car Ford is going to make?

No, that is just a Fusion being used as a research vehicle with the sensors slapped on top. I agree though that the LIDAR packaging is going to be a big drawback. This laser has to have a line of site from a rotating position, so by nature needs to be substantially above the vehicle to see object close by.

The other issue is the sensor has to physically rotate which is a reliability issue. And LIDARs (in my line of work) do require careful calibration/recalibration. But obviously that is the tech issues that Ford is trying to solve in the next 5 years.

A few comments from the watching the video: 1. He avoided anything about electric drivetrains. That was not an accident. Ford has no news on electric worth sharing. 2. I almost fell out of my chair laughing when he said, (standing in the middle of Silicon Valley) Ford was one of the only companies that offered the chance for people to change the world. That was more like a plea to not go work for Apple/Intel/Facebook/Google/Uber/Tesla/Netflix/NVIDIA/Salesforce/Twitter/etc. 3. The expansion of employees in SV is interesting timed with significant departures from the Google self driving team. And the fact that the rumored self driving partnership between Ford and Google fell through. Maybe Ford decide to just pillage their team instead? 4. Acquisitions, none of which are SV companies, strange considering the expanded investment. 5. Definitely taking shots at Tesla’s current AutoPilot, pretending like Tesla isn’t also pursing Level 4/5. Smart move since Ford does not have or plan to have Level 3. 6. Very big commitment to LIDAR, opposite to Tesla. It will be interesting to see what becomes the best system. I think the worst part of the LIDAR will be vehicle design and aerodynamics. Fundamentally, the idea of only… Read more »

Looks like you read the article and watched the videos with a critical mind. Try going through the article again with an objective mind. I think many of your opinions will change.

I guess, by nature, I read every companies press releases with a critical mind. Everything PR is designed to hit on the high points.

I have nothing against Ford. I am happy when I get a Ford rental. I think they have the best suspension/handling of any domestic brand. My only criticism is Ford’s slow footing of electric drive vehicles. I would have an Escape plug-in in my driveway if they didn’t cancel the project.

I found one comment in the video very interesting, Ford can’t find an efficient way to transition from autonomous to human so that’s why they want to jump Level 3 and go straight to Level 4. That means that the Ford system probably won’t let you take over control if the car is doing something you don’t like. A lot of people are not going to like not being able to take over if they see trouble but, if the vehicle doesn’t have any steering wheel or pedals, the point is pretty mute.

I think Ford is right.

I hope they didn’t spend much money on the research, about 2 hours Ford’s lawyers watching YouTube videos of people using Tesla’s AutoPilot would have been enough.

I don’t even think Tesla really believes in the current AutoPilot as a great solution, but having the massive fleet of data gives them a leg up on designing the full autonomy system.

Level 0 autonomy + cell phones is scary scene today, so I hope they all figure it out quickly.

Does someone dare to pose the real question here: Is there a market for it? Or explained in another way: do people really want to pay many dollars for this? That seems to be a fundamental question before producing anything. I still remember the digital Polaroid with a printer included with the digital camera. The product was a nice improvement on the original Polaroid but afterwards they found out that people just weren’t interested. For instance, up to now, I am not really interested in self driving, so I guess there are many others out there. Is there a real marketing research that shows real demand for this with real buyers ready to pay real money for it?

Yes, existing ride share has already proven the concept. My “back of the napkin” calculation shows maybe a 50% cost reduction when Uber/Lyft can go to autonomous + EV. If that were the case then obviously they can expand the market greatly (more of the same plus much more product delivery service) with a lower price point AND increase their profitability at the same time.

This is why nearly every automaker is scrambling to get in line with the new world order of automotive transportation.

Ok Uber can be a market and all the taxi companies and perhaps also all the deliveries, but what about private people’s car, will they use that, will they really enter a car share scheme?

Without a steering wheel, etc. how does the operator convince the car to go to refueling station B because A is out of order? Or how does the operator tell it to go down a private dirt road that is not on any map?

Let the autonomous wars begin! Who’s going to mass produce first? Who’s going to sell the first passenger-less autonomous delivery van or truck?

How much oversight will the governments have on autonomous code? Will autonomous vehicles be allowed to break laws like speed limits? Stay tuned folks, this should be interesting!

Here’s an article that gives some insight into the the massive computing power and massive cloud connectivity that will probably be integrated into these autonomous vehicles:
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“The increasing movement toward piloted systems has an effect on how automakers design the vehicles electronic architecture, he noted. For one, the architecture needs to be redundant. Second, there is the issue of what “central brains” will control all the actuators and sensors. zFAS is one; there will be more, he added.

Hudi expanded upon that, and was more definitive.

The car industry is moving to system architectures in the car which we call a domain architecture. We are going to have domain controllers that are more or less supercomputers. These domain controllers will be networked by gigabit Ethernet [earlier post].

You will have the domain powertrain, you will have the domain chassis, you will have the domain safety, you will have the domain driver assistance, and you will have the domain … listen… cockpit computer. No longer “navigation”. No longer “infotainment”. No longer a “fully programmable cluster”. The technology of our partners in mobile computing is so quick that a cockpit computer is possible.”

http://www.greencarcongress.com/2016/01/audi-to-use-gen-2-zfas-controller-in-production-e-tron-quattro-piloted-driving-moving-to-domain-cont.html