Hot on the heels of its big investment into self-driving car sensors, Ford has today committed to having its first high-volume, fully autonomous vehicle on the road by 2021. Intended for ride-sharing, Uber-style on-demand transportation, and other commercial mobility applications, the vehicle will lack a steering wheel, acceleration-, or brake pedal.
Unlike Ford’s current autonomous research fleet, which bolts extra sensors onto existing production models like the Fusion, the fully autonomous car it plans for 2021 will be specially designed for the purpose. It’ll meet Level 4 on the Society of Automotive Engineers’ scale, which basically means that it can handle most everyday driving without the occupants getting involved. However, that’s still short of Level 5, at which point the car is able to handle every situation without the “driver” weighing in.
Ford hasn’t said exactly what the limits of its vehicle’s technology will be, but has previously demonstrated autonomous cars handling inclement conditions like snow, as well as in complete darkness.
Still, it’s a big step for a company which had previously been considered one of the more conservative among automakers on self-driving technology.