"I will build a car for the great multitude," said Henry Ford of the Model T, the car that opened travel to the American middle-class and was voted as the most influential car of the 20th century.
Now, more than a hundred years since the Model T's introduction back in 1908, Ford CEO Mark Fields announces that the company will start selling autonomous vehicles by 2025 — ones that millions of people can afford.
"We're dedicated to putting autonomous vehicles on the road for millions of people, not just those who can afford luxury cars," says Fields. "We believe this next decade is really going to be defined by the automation of the automobile."
With the goal of leading the autonomous car revolution, Ford is expending a lot of effort and resources to make it happen. Last month, the company revealed that it is targeting to launch fully autonomous vehicles for ride-hailing or ride-sharing services by 2021.
To deliver these vehicles within the projected timeframe, the car manufacturer has invested in a number of tech companies. For instance, Ford put money into Velodyne, a Silicon Valley-based company that specializes in LiDar sensors, which are used for high-resolution mapping. Ford aims to produce more affordable LiDar sensors.
Another of Ford's investments, which is intended to further the autonomous cars' 3D mapping capabilities, is in a Berkeley-based company called Civil Maps. According to Ford, Civil Maps has a developed a 3D mapping technique that is not only scalable but more efficient as well.
Ford also acquired SAIPS, a machine learning and computer vision company that is based in Israel. It also secured an exclusive licensing agreement with Nirenberg Neuroscience. With the partnership, Ford hopes to bring humanlike intelligence to the machine learning modules of its autonomous vehicle virtual driver system.
With its considerable commitment toward its driverless cars, Ford says that the first one it releases will be a Society of Automotive Engineers-defined level 4-capable vehicle, which means high-automation. SAE's published document titled "Automated Driving" [PDF] defines automation levels in detail.
Ford plans to release autonomous vehicles for ride-hailing or ride-sharing that are rid of gas and brake pedals, as well as steering wheels.
"Think about all the things you can do when you don't have to be focused on driving," says the Ford CEO. "You can design lots of things, using the interior for a lot of different use cases."
Ford is yet to detail its planned design for non-commercial autonomous vehicles. Below is a video showcasing Ford's development of autonomous cars for ride-sharing services.