Ford’s CEO says they might have jumped the gun on autonomous vehicles and how soon they’d arrive on American roads.
This really isn’t very surprising to those paying attention to the autonomous vehicle boom. While everyone and their cat wants to be in on the ground floor for when autonomous vehicles do finally take off, the average American isn’t so keen on the idea of a car driving itself.
A recent survey from AAA reported that almost three-quarters of Americans would prefer to avoid stepping foot in a self-driving car, thank you very much. A little less than half said that it was fine for autonomous cars to deliver things like packages or pizza, but as soon as a human is involved, they’re out. Way out.
Which might explain Ford CEO Jim Hackett’s comments at a Detroit Economic Club event last Tuesday.
“We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles,” he said. Ford, like many carmakers, was quick to gobble up several tech startups that were working on autonomous cars to make sure they had their own technology in the works. However, the Blue Oval said they’re tempering their expectations of what self-driving cars will do, saying that “its applications will be narrow, what we call geo-fenced, because the problem is so complex.”
This seems a reference to both the political climate, which is very skeptical of self-driving cars, as well as the technological one. To that end, Ford is teaming up with GM and Toyota to set safety standards in the United States surrounding self-driving cars as lawmakers seem incapable of doing so themselves.
Although Hackett has scaled back his enthusiasm for a self-driving future, he still says when it arrives, it’ll be a big change. “When we break through, it will change the way your toothpaste is delivered,” he said. “Logistics and ride structures and cities all get redesigned. I won’t be in charge of Ford when this is going on, but I see it clearly.”
Currently, Ford delivers Domino’s pizzas in Miami using self-driving cars. Whether or not that program will expand seems a little up in the air, but people seem to like a robot delivering their pizza at least.