Ford plans to sell driverless cars by 2025 - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Ford plans to sell driverless cars by 2025

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By: PAUL A. EISENSTEIN

(NBC) — Ford Motor Co. hopes to begin selling fully driverless vehicles to consumers by 2025, CEO Mark Fields said, about four years after the automaker begins marketing the technology to ride-sharing and delivery fleets.

Ford recently turned the auto industry's conventional wisdom on its head by saying it plans to go beyond basic autonomous technology — which would require a trained "operator" ready to take control in the event of an emergency. Instead, Ford wants to take the driver out of the picture entirely.

"We believe the next decade will be defined by the development of autonomous vehicles," CEO Fields said during a conference Ford is sponsoring this week looking at future trends.

Vehicles using semi-autonomous, advanced driver assistance systems, or ADAS, are already rolling out on the highway, and several makers, including Nissan and Tesla, have targets of putting fully autonomous models into production around 2020. But such systems still will require motorists to be at the ready.

Several companies want to take drivers out of the picture entirely, including Google and Ford, as well as Uber. The ride-sharing service believes driverless vehicles would allow it to drop costs so low it would become cheaper to call for a ride rather than owning a personal vehicle.

For his part, Fields acknowledged there could be fewer private vehicles on the road in crowded mega-cities in the future. But he downplayed concerns this would result in a wholesale slide in auto sales.

With driverless ride-sharing vehicles running 24/7 and clocking far more miles than private vehicles, "they'll be traded in more often," he suggested.

Ride-sharing services and delivery fleets would be more likely to swallow the added costs of driverless vehicle technology, the executive noted. But, as with smartphones and other electronics, he also said the cost of driverless systems will drop with time and scale.

So, longer-term, Fields said, Ford is "dedicated to put autonomous vehicles on the road for millions of people, not just those who can afford a luxury vehicle."

There remain plenty of skeptics who question whether autonomous vehicles of any form will be ready to hit the road by 2021, never mind fully driverless ones — known in industry lingo as "Level 4" technology.

Read the full story on NBC News.

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