The automotive industry is under Darwinian pressure to revamp its business model. Owning a car is still expensive and perhaps inconvenient, especially for urban drivers for whom finding a parking spot can be a daily nuisance. Add to this the growing number of ride-sharing apps, and individual car ownership is becoming a hard sell. A smart move for an automotive company might be to remake themselves as mobility companies broadly, not just car companies.
Dr. Ken Washington, VP of Research and Advanced Engineering at Ford Motor Co., said that is precisely Ford’s approach to the shifting market. He told Jeff Frick (@JeffFrick), cohost of theCUBE, from the SiliconANGLE Media team, during the Further With Ford 2016 event that the forces of change involve much more than Uber.
“The world is getting more urban and much more congested, and traffic patterns are a lot tougher today, and parking is harder to find,” he said.
Washington stated that Ford’s focus on Level 4 fully autonomous cars is due to safety concerns, but also future business goals. Ford’s Level 4 vehicles will be based on a Society of Automotive Engineers-defined level 4-capable vehicle and will operate without a steering wheel, gas or brake pedal. “Probably the more important reason is because it opens up the business model to enable the ride-sharing service where you don’t have to have a driver,” he said, adding that Ford hopes to open its autonomous ride service to its campus in 2018 and the general public by 2021.
“Having a solution that allows people to have choice like riding a bike or taking a shuttle and sharing that ride and being picked up in a location where you are and hailing that ride with an app — these are made possible with the technology that’s available today,” Washington stated. “We’re embracing that and bringing it to our customers with our Smart Mobility program — and ultimately, we’re going to bring autonomy to that as well.”
Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE and theCUBE’s coverage of Further With Ford 2016.