Ford driverless cars

Ford plans to launch driverless cars by 2021

PALO ALTO: Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday it plans to deploy a fully autonomous and driverless ride-hailing car by 2021.

CEO Mark Fields set the target at Ford’s Research and Innovation facility here, which will double its staff to 300 and grow its footprint by 150,000 square feet by year’s end to respond to the challenge.

“This is one example of how we’re thinking about expanding our business into mobility more broadly,” Fields told USA TODAY. “Taking the driver out of the equation improves the economics for us as well as consumers.”

Currently, Ford is testing around a dozen self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrids on California, Michigan and Arizona roads. Its goal is to introduce cars with no steering wheels or pedals. The car’s powertrain has yet to be decided, but Ford executives stressed that for commercial applications such as ride hailing a more flexible gas-electric hybrid engine may be preferable to pure electric.

Google leads the way in this arena with a seven-year self-driving program whose vehicles have logged more than 1.5 million miles in four states.

Other automakers are also targeting a similar delivery date, with BMW and Volvo separately announcing last month that they would have a self-driving car by 2021. Some 33 companies are developing autonomous car tech, from Audi to Volkswagen, according to CB Insights.

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