Right now, self-driving cars have a failsafe. They come with controls and must have a human inside at all times to grab the wheel and steer the car out of harm’s way. Not even Google is ready to ditch the wheel and the pedals just yet. Ford, however, has a plan to do just that, and within the next five years.
Ford announced today that it was launching development of a fully autonomous car, piloted and controlled entirely by computer, to be completed by 2021. The auto manufacturer won’t be selling it to the general public, however, but to taxi companies and ride-hailing services for use in high-density urban areas, and it may even follow pre-set routes. That makes sense, if you think about it: a robot is probably going to have an easier time with the stop-and-go traffic of a city than trying to navigate even a straight highway. Ford followed up the announcement with a lot of splashy acquisitions, announcing investments in a number of startups that offer range-finding sensors, machine vision, 3D mapping, and other tools.
It’s a bold idea, not least because self-driving technology has been struggling for good press lately. Tesla has seen several accidents in which its Autopilot technology was involved, although it has denied fault. Still, it’s undeniable that self-driving features are likely going to be the safety features of the future, and Ford is clearly hoping to leapfrog current technology and beat everyone to fully autonomous cars. Just, hopefully, they won’t include any animatronic cabbies.
(Via The Verge)