Ford Co. would sell self-driving cars by about 2025, providing via ride-hailing service in 2021

Mark Fields, chief executive of Ford Company promises fleets of driverless cars within 5 years!

Mark Fields, the chief executive of Ford Motor Company, said his company would sell completely self-driving cars by about 2025, after first providing them via ride-hailing service, in 2021.

At a news conference at the company’s research center in Palo Alto, California, 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, Fields’ announcement was short on specifics. But he said that the vehicles Ford envisioned would be radically different from those that populate US 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 CEO 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.”

Such cars would have “no steering wheel, no brake pedal,” he said. “Essentially a driver is not going to be required.”

At first these robocars will cost more than conventional cars, he admitted, but the ride-hailing application will make up for that by saving the salary of a professional driver. Later, the rising scale of production will lower the sticker price enough to justify offering the robocars for sale. Ford can make money either way.

Ford has begun framing itself as a mobility company rather than a mere car company, and it has emphasized the point recently by announcing ventures to provide cities with electric-bicycle services and shuttle services. Asked about recent drops in the company’s share prices—a sign that investors aren’t happy with a program that can only bear fruit a decade hence—Fields said his company wasn’t managed for the short run alone.

He quoted Wayne Gretzky, the famed Canadian hockey player: “You’ve got to skate to where the puck is going to go.”

In a research note, Johnson noted that it remained unclear how auto companies would make money from ride-sharing services.

“These are a lot of promises, but we don’t yet know how they are going to evolve,” Krebs said. “There are still missing pieces.”

One of the investments Ford announced was a $75 million stake in Velodyne, which makes sensors that use lidar, a kind of radar based on laser beams. Chinese internet company Baidu said it was making a comparable investment in Velodyne.

Ford also said it had made investments in Nirenberg Neuroscience, which is also developing machine vision technology, and Civil Maps, a startup that is developing 3D digital maps for use by automated vehicles. Ford did not disclose the amount it invested in Nirenberg or Civil Maps.