Ford "overestimated" self-driving cars admits CEO

While the company still plans to launch an autonomous fleet in 2021, the vehicle's applications are expected to be more limited than previously expected


Jim Hackett, CEO of Ford, has admitted that he has had to manage the company's expectations for self-driving cars, as he divulged that its first autonomous vehicles would be significantly limited in terms of their capabilities.

"We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles," he said, and while Ford still plans to launch a self-driving fleet in 2021 "its applications will be narrow, what we call geo-fenced, because the problem is so complex".

Hackett's admission comes six months after Sherif Marakby, CEO of Ford's autonomous vehicles division, revealed the company's plan for autonomous vehicles in a Medium post and disclosed that the company would invest $4bn in the technology through to 2023. This included a $1bn investment in Argo AI, an AI company developing a virtual driver system.

"Ford has deep experience building durable vehicles that serve large commercial fleets in heavy-duty, high-mileage operations; the kinds of vehicles you'll want to outfit a self-driving vehicle business," wrote Marakby at the time. "The self-driving future requires that and more.

"So we are pulling together all the building blocks: our expertise as a global vehicle manufacturer, Argo AI's work to develop state-of-the-art self-driving technology, our quickly advancing fleet management capabilities, routing systems and cloud services and the partner networks needed to successfully run an autonomous business," he added.

However, Hackett's comments show that the company misjudged the difficulties it would come across when it came to mass-deployment of its fleets.

Ford is not the only company that has run into complications after promising it would soon deliver a fleet of autonomous vehicles. Uber revealed this week that its self-driving cards will require a longer wait than expected, while Google's Waymo has yet to expand beyond a select few, geo-fenced areas in Pheonix, Arizona.

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