When drivers think of Ford Motor Company, they think of many things. Some think of the first car designs in the United States that defined what cars should look and drive like. Others think of the founder, Henry Ford, and his contribution to industrial innovation by introducing the assembly line, making car production (and later, product production of anything) be a fast and efficient process.
Few, however, do not think of Ford as a company interlinked with technological advances of the future. Ford may change this very soon.
Testing the Future
According to an announcement by Jim Hackett, Ford’s CEO, the American car company will start testing autonomous (self-driving) vehicles by 2018. Yes, you heard it right: we may be seeing several Ford vehicles that don’t require a driver’s engagement several months from now. The company hopes to remove the public image of being far and separated from new technologies with new autonomous vehicles.
It is important to note that this is just a test run, meaning Ford won’t actually roll-out their autonomous vehicles until their planned 2021 goal. Financing the project is certainly not an obstacle. Also worth considering is the fact that Ford may have had this in the works for quite some time now, and they only chose to release this information to the public, which is something not uncommon to do by big companies. The car company is already investing $1 billion - billion, not million - in a self-driving company. Ford has many advantages in designing self-driving vehicles, but even if they are able to pull it off, there is still one question that must be asked, as seen in the next section.
Will Ford Be Able to Compete?
There is a rational argument that if Ford wants to play in the market of self-driving vehicles, they may linger a bit behind due to their time of entrance into the game. Other car companies, most notably Tesla, have years’ worth of experience in self-driving vehicles and have already developed a clear market for customers looking for a car that does not require them to brake, accelerate, turn, and all of the other tasks that driving entails. Regardless, due to the large popularity and time in the car manufacturing market, Ford may actually be able to introduce a vehicle line-up that customers have been waiting for. Product launches involving new technologies may be a risk, but as long as the company keeps its standards high for their new vehicles, there shouldn’t be much to worry about.
Designing, testing, and passing federal regulations for a self-driving car in less than five years is certainly no easy task. Testing self-driving vehicles can sometimes bring unexpected accidents that can hurt the company’s image before the public and stockholders, as was the case for Tesla. Nevertheless, an important distinction exists. For starters, Ford has a long history of ensuring that their vehicles are safe and durable for its customers. The same should stay the same with their autonomous cars, and it would be silly for the strong car company to launch a vehicle before it is fully ready to do so.