Ford Wants Its Own Fully Self-Driving Car by 2021, CEO Mark Fields Says

Mark Fields, President and CEO of Ford, speaks during the company's press conference at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Jan. 9, 2017.
Geoff Robins—AFP/Getty Images

Ford (F) CEO Mark Fields has a grand target for his company: to release a truly self-driving model that doesn’t require human intervention in five years’ time.

He said that the Ford autonomous car as envisioned by the automaker would have neither a gas pedal nor a steering wheel, and that passengers wouldn’t have to control the car “in a predefined area.”

Making these comments during an interview with CNBC at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, Fields also questioned the automotive industry’s use of the term “autonomous” in describing cars with any level of self-driving capabilities.

“In our industry, the word autonomous is being used very, very liberally. There’s different levels of autonomy,” he explained. According to CNBC, engineering professional association SAE International has developed a six-tier scale for automated driving, with level zero being no automation at all and level five being full automation.

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Fields added that “when a company says they’re going to have an autonomous vehicle,” the question it should be asked be “at what level.”

In Ford’s case, as he told CNBC, “we said a level four vehicle in 2021″—or “high automation” as defined by SAE, which entails that the automated system can perform all aspects of the driving task when set in specific driving modes, “even if a human driver does not respond appropriately to a request to intervene.”

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