A lot has been made of self-driving cars hitting the roads in the near future, but according to Pim van der Jagt, MD of Ford’s European research centre, your next car is unlikely to be fully autonomous.
Ford CEO, Mark Fields, surprised many recently when he said that the company’s self-driving cars could be on the road in as little as four years time, ahead of Google’s own self-driving car, which is projected for a 2020 release.
Speaking to TrustedReviews at the research centre in Aachen, Germany, however, Mr van der Jagt said it was ‘almost impossible’ to sell fully-autonomous vehicles to average consumers.
He said: “Nobody can predict whether these fully autonomous vehicles will work under all environmental conditions. The Google cars have an issue with heavy rain and snow. Very low sunlight is also very bad because the cameras don’t see anything so you need to have some sort of controlled environment.
“That makes it almost impossible to sell a 100% autonomous vehicle to an average person.”
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Issues with test conditions are not the only thing holding mass-market fully autonomous cars back according to Mr van der Jagt.
He continued: “Production is a big question. If we have a fully autonomous vehicle it will not be a vehicle that a person can go out and buy and drive every day under every condition.
“We will have autonomous vehicles but the first set will be in certain geographic areas, maybe California or somewhere else. You will have a shuttle service that uses fully autonomous vehicles.”
Ford has been working on its own version of a self-driving car for some time, and recently announced it would be the first car maker to test autonomous vehicles at the University of Michgan’s simulated city, known as Mcity.
The company currently has four autonomous cars, all located in the US, and is planning to expand the team at Mcity to ramp up testing in the coming years.
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But, as Mr van der Jagt explained, it seems the first round of self-driving cars which Ford will put into production is likely to be aimed at providing an alternative to public transport.
He added: “I think in the next decade [self-driving cars] will happen. Whether that's 2020 or 2029, somewhere in that time frame you will see fully autonomous vehicles.
“But the first wave will not be privately owned cars. With the amount of cars you have on the road you learn more and more and you get better control over all conditions. It is possible then, that in our lifetime families will have these cars.”