In regards to autonomous cars, Ford seems to be more reserved than the rest of the automakers or technology companies. Mark Fields, Ford’s CEO recently announced that the company will increase its test car fleet from 10 to 30 this year, allowing Ford to take lesser time in gathering information needed for the company to be able to make autonomous car which in the end to be sold to consumers.
Ford does not put a time frame for them to introduce their version of autonomous cars. However, Fields promised that when they do, it will be safe and accessible to everyone and not just for the people who can afford luxury cars.
Aligned with this objective, the company launched Ford Smart Mobility programme which one of the elements is autonomous driving. The company is sending message to the public that they are undergoing transformation from just an automaker to a company that provide both automotive and mobility to their customers.
There are definitely some challenges that the company face in regards of developing autonomous cars. Firstly, there are a lot of variables that they need to cover and when they think that they have covered the baseline, there are more variables come up to the surface which have not been addressed. One of the examples is the weather conditions.
Cameras, sonars and sensors are essential to autonomous cars. However, they are having difficulties operating in freezing rain or snow or even inclement conditions. Therefore, to solve this issue, Ford is experimenting in using lidar sensors as well as cameras, sonars and sensors. It seems that it is redundant to use lidar sensors with cameras, sonars and sensors as lidar should be able to cover all of it. However, according to Fields, lidar sensors with cameras, sonars and sensors will give a complete picture of things, so it is not redundant.
Fields predicted that fully autonomous vehicles will be first available in locations which have been 3-D mapped then it will be evolved in something like a transportation service, a passenger kind of ride-sharing service.
Ford vehicles have already capabilities to keep in lane or park automatically whether it is parallel or perpendicular parking as well as automatic braking. Despite all these, there is also another team dedicated to deliver a fully autonomous vehicle. However, in the short term, Ford vehicles will be equipped with semi autonomous features.
Despite the technical issue, there is also regulations issue that needed to be solved before a fully autonomous vehicle can be launched to public. One of the examples that given by Fields is at a four way stop. The current rule says that whoever gets there first and stops can go, however, people do not always follow the rule. Therefore, Ford needs to be able to find a way for its fully autonomous car to handle such a scenario.