In reality, autonomous cars will have many limitations.
Despite what you may have heard about Tesla's Autopilot, there is no car currently on sale that offers full self-driving capability. Automakers are making inroads in developing autonomous technology and Ford has been at the forefront of this innovation with its fleet of self-driving prototypes in both Miami, Florida and the US capital, Washington DC.
Ford previously said it would be the first to market with a self-driving car in 2021 but speaking with Bloomberg, the company had to temper those expectations. "We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles,” Jim Hackett said. Ford’s self-driving car will still arrive in 2021 but, "its applications will be narrow, what we call geo-fenced, because the problem is so complex.”
What Hackett means is that self-driving cars won't just be able to traverse the entire US without needing driver intervention. Geo-fencing creates a virtual perimeter for the car using GPS location, where we assume the car will only be able to drive by itself within certain areas. Hackett didn't go into any more detail on how or why the cars will need to use geo-fencing but we assume extreme weather conditions and the unpredictability of certain roads in the US may be the cause.
Self-driving cars may initially be used for deliveries and ridesharing rather than a consumer replacement for their current vehicles. This way, geo-fencing can be used to make sure the cars stay within a certain area.
"When we break through, it will change the way your toothpaste is delivered,” Hackett 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. When we bring this thing to market, it’s going to be really powerful. There’s probably going to be alliance partners that we haven’t announced yet that will make it more certain that we don’t take on all the risks ourselves financially.”