Ford says it’s going to deliver self-driving cars by 2021 – and these will ship in volume, and will also lack steering wheels, brake or gas pedals, offering full Level 4 self-driving features which don’t require a human driver at all, the company announced at a press conference in Palo Alto today.
The car maker says that it has held off making any announcements about when to deliver self-driving vehicles until now because it isn’t in a race to make announcements. But it did say it is making self-driving vehicle deployment a priority, because of the advantages it offers in terms of customer experience and passenger safety.
“We’re no longer just an auto company, we’re also a mobility company,” said Ford CEO Mark Fields at the press conference. He made that declaration after discussing Ford Mobility Solutions, which is a subsidiary Ford began to help it develop automated fleet driving services.
Ford also announced it was going to ramp up its Silicon Valley operations, doubling its employee population in the tech center to over 300, with expanded offices and labs in Palo Alto.
While self-driving cars are planned for mass production by 2021, Ford doesn’t see these replacing personal transportation in five years’ time. Instead, the company anticipates these being used mostly in urban environments as supplements to mass transit, while individual car ownership will continue to focus on vehicles with driver assist functions, but which ultimately still give humans control.