Although everyone can agree that self-driving cars will be hitting the market in the near future, nobody can agree on when that’ll actually happen. Google’s prediction that fully autonomous cars will become available to consumers in five years or so has been the most aggressive of all the predictions for a while, but it looks like Ford holds that honor now. According to CEO Mark Fields, it’s the legal and regulatory obstacles that need to be overcome before self-driving cars can start hitting the market, more so than the technological ones, and he believes that will happen within the next four years.
Ford CEO Mark Fields said Wednesday that he sees the potential for fully autonomous cars to be available for use on U.S. streets in four years’ time. Speaking to reporters in San Francisco, Fields said that Ford should be able to have vehicles that can be fully autonomous on roads where high-definition maps are available. The key, he said, is making sure that the regulatory and legal issues get worked out. “Technology tends to lead all that,” Fields said. Fields’s time frame is even more aggressive than others in the field, including Google. Google has said it hopes self-driving cars will be in the mass market in five years, although the Internet giant has yet to reveal a business plan for its own fleet. Other automakers have offered much longer timelines for self-driving vehicles. “I describe our strategy as having one foot in today and one foot in tomorrow,” Fields said. “We are becoming a mobility company and an auto company.” Fields said that part of the company is focused on selling traditional cars, trucks and SUVs, while the other is looking at where transportation will be 20 years from now. He said he wants his company to bring as much change to the future of transportation as Henry Ford brought 100 years ago.