By 2021 – cars without internal controls will be a reality
This is the “Ford Self-Driving [whether-you-like-it-or-not] Car”. They call it the “fully autonomous” car, and a “full Level 4 self-driving” vehicle. But the idea of nothing to hold on to is a bit disconcerting. I suppose not having to supply these parts saves Ford money. But no steering wheel?
Perhaps we shouldn’t call it a car but a carriage. You may recall that these conveyances were built on four wheels without steering, brake or gas pedal back in the 15th century. Ok, ok. So that’s extreme. But what’s the point of removing all the inner control appurtenances of the vehicle known as car(riage)?
A hint at the point of this great sea-change is found in a statement by Ford’s CEO, Mark Fields, that the company was no longer “just an auto company, we’re also a mobility company.” The drive to work just met the drive for relevancy. And which will win out? Consumers arise!
On Ford’s side of the game is a tech-staff doubling to over 300 dedicated to making the “full Level 4 self-driving” machine a reality. By 2021. Which, in case you hadn’t noticed, is a mere 5 years away.
However, Ford assures us that “it isn’t in a race to make announcements.” So we can rely on the claim that “it is making self-driving vehicle deployment a priority because of the advantages” offered. These advantages have to do with customer experience and passenger safety, true advantages no one can deny. But what about the steering wheel?
The steering wheel lives on! Ford has assurred us that the fully autonomous car is more of a mass transit device and that “personal transportation” will continue to be a reality. Individual car ownership, always a good source of revenue for car manufacturers, will “focus on vehicles with driver assist functions.” But control goes to the humans at the wheel. The steering wheel!