Newspaper article International New York Times

Ford Predicts It Will Make Self-Driving Cars by 2021 ; Automaker Planning Mass Production for a Ride-Hailing Service

Newspaper article International New York Times

Ford Predicts It Will Make Self-Driving Cars by 2021 ; Automaker Planning Mass Production for a Ride-Hailing Service

Article excerpt

The carmaker said it aimed to have self-driving cars available for ride-hailing services.

In the race to develop driverless cars, several automakers and technology companies are already testing vehicles that pilot themselves on public roads. And others have outlined plans to expand their development fleets over the next few years.

But few have gone so far as to give a date for the commercial debut of these cars of the future.

Now Ford Motor has done just that.

At a news conference on Tuesday at the company's research center in Palo Alto, Calif., Mark Fields, Ford's chief executive, said the company planned to mass produce driverless cars and have them in commercial operation in a ride-hailing service by 2021.

Beyond that, the announcement was short on specifics. But Mr. Fields said that the vehicles Ford envisioned would be radically different from those that populate American roads now.

"That means there's going to be no steering wheel. There's going to be no gas pedal. There's going to be no brake pedal," he said. "If someone had told you 10 years ago, or even five years ago, that the C.E.O. of a major automaker American car company is going to be announcing the mass production of fully autonomous vehicles, they would have been called crazy or nuts or both."

The company also said on Tuesday that as part of the effort, it planned to expand its center in Silicon Valley -- doubling the number of employees who work there over the next year, from the current 130.

Ford also said it had acquired an Israeli start-up, Saips, that specializes in computer vision, a crucial technology for self- driving cars. And the automaker announced investments in three other companies involved in major technologies for driverless vehicles.

For several years, automakers have understood that their industry is being reshaped by the use of advanced computer chips, software and sensors to develop cars designed to drive themselves. The tech companies Google and Apple have emerged as potential future competitors to automakers, while Tesla Motors, the maker of electric cars, has already proved a competitive threat to luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz with driver-assistance and collision- avoidance technologies. …

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