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Ford’s Road to Full Autonomy

Today is a milestone moment in Ford’s history.

We’re announcing our intent to have fully autonomous vehicles in commercial operation for a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service beginning in 2021. This is significant. Ford will be mass producing vehicles capable of driving fully autonomously within five years. No steering wheel. No gas pedals. No brake pedals. A driver will not be required.

If someone had told you 10 years ago -- even five years ago -- that a major American car company would announce the mass production of a vehicle with no steering wheel, you would have said they were crazy.

As little as four years ago, our approach was aligned with the thinking of most automakers today, which is taking incremental steps to achieve full autonomy by advancing driver assist technology. This is not how we look at it today. We learned that to achieve full autonomy, we’d have to take a completely different pathway. 

So, we abandoned a stepping-stone approach and created a dedicated “top down” engineering program to deliver fully autonomous vehicles and the new mobility solutions and business opportunities that a fully autonomous vehicle could deliver.

The world is changing, and it’s changing quickly. We’re not sitting on the sidelines. Ford will be actively driving that change.

It’s now clear that the next decade will be defined by automation of the automobile. In fact, we see autonomous vehicles as having as big an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did a hundred years ago.

It’s important to understand that this is not just about building an autonomous vehicle. There’s something deeper, something that motivates us every day, something that’s in the DNA of our company.

More than a hundred years ago, we were founded with a clear mission: to make people’s lives better. Our founder Henry Ford believed making transportation accessible would advance human progress. Cars used to just be for rich people, but the innovations at Ford brought the automobile to millions of people.

At the time, it was a radical idea. Most people in the U.S. didn’t travel very far from their homes. When car ownership became a reality for millions, people became more connected; they explored more and found greater opportunity because they could live, work and play where they wanted.  In a way, it was a revolution in the connectivity of average people the likes of which we haven’t seen again until recently.

This principle of bringing life-changing technologies to millions of people is at the core of what we do. When we step back and look at how we can make the most difference in people’s lives during the next 100 years, we see the autonomous car changing the way the world moves once again. That’s because autonomous cars address a host of safety, social, and environmental challenges.

Read more about our commitment to autonomous vehicles and how we are expanding our presence in Silicon Valley here.


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