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Ford still committed to drivers’ cars

By raccars Published

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Ford pledges to continue to make cars for drivers despite the growing trend for autonomous vehicles.

Ford futurologist Sheryl Connelly has predicted that the automotive giant will carry on building cars for drivers to enjoy despite the ever-growing popularity of autonomous driving technology.

Connelly explains that autonomous driving technology incorporates a whole spectrum of features and vehicles, ranging from assisted driving capabilities such as adaptive control to completely driver-free vehicles. But Ford insists that it remains committed to building cars for enthusiasts.

The Ford futurologist said that completely autonomous technology made sense for some models but did not for others. Research from Ford has also shown that enthusiasm for driverless cars varies hugely depending on geographical location.

Ford reveals differences in global opinion

The Chinese and Indian markets show the most enthusiasm with 78 per cent of Chinese respondents and 84 per cent in India talking positively about self-driving technology. Difficulties in learning to drive and congestion were cited as reasons.

In America, however, just 40 per cent of respondents shared a similar level of enthusiasm, whilst the UK market seemed to show even less, with just 30 per cent of people warming to the idea of self-driving vehicles.

The future for autonomous driving tech

Rather than replacing cars that drivers want to control, it is believed that autonomous driving technology’s future may lie in offering a transport lifeline to be used by older people and teenagers. Self-driving cars could offer a viable alternative to ‘mum and dad's taxi’ and public transport for teens who need to move around rural areas or cities safely.

Connelly said that it is possible that parents would prefer the idea of their teenagers being transported in a self-driving car rather than in a vehicle driven by a total stranger, such as an Uber driver.

With some scientists predicting that future generations could live for 150 years or more, autonomous vehicles could also offer a major transport solution to an ageing population, adds Connelly. This means that if people retire at 65-years-old, some may still have almost two thirds of their lives left to enjoy and will need transport options to get around.

Ford focus on technology

Despite this commitment to car enthusiasts, Ford is also working to keep up with the likes of Google and Uber in the driverless car market. Earlier this year it launched the Ford Smart Mobility (FSM) subsidiary, aimed at developing autonomous, ride-sharing and in-car connectivity technologies. The subsidiary has been designed to act like a start-up company and help to create real products based upon a foundation which results from a decade of Ford work on autonomous systems.

Ford’s CEO Mark Fields announced recently that the company’s ‘entire business model’ is being rethought and there is a changing focus from vehicle numbers sold to services provided in order to reflect a changing society where people want to both own and share vehicles.

Fields has admitted that the world will be transformed by autonomous cars, in combination with ride sharing and moves to combat climate change. There may even be the possibility that some cities in the world will make driving personal vehicles illegal.

He believes that, in order to respond to these changes, Ford will be producing a totally self-driving car with no pedals, accelerator or steering wheel by 2021, although this is likely to be limited to use as a robotic taxi in some areas, at least initially. It should, however, be available to private buyers within the following five years.

Ford, meanwhile, plans to have 30 of its autonomous development Fusions by the time 2016 comes to a close and another 70 at the end of next year.

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