Ford is going to use robot cars to beat Uber and Lyft in the ridesharing game.
Ford is going all in on ridesharing, although the automaker is taking an interesting tactic. The Blue Oval announced that it plans to launch a fully autonomous vehicle for ridesharing use by 2021. The car will be SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) level-4 capable. That means it will not have a steering wheel or gas and brake pedals. What's more is that Ford is planning a wide roll out of its fully autonomous car. If all goes to plan you'll be able to easily order a self-driving Ford using your smartphone.
To accelerate its autonomous efforts Ford has acquired four tech companies and is doubling its Silicon Valley team and the size of its Palo Alto Campus. Unlike companies like Toyota and GM, which have invested in Uber and Lyft respectively, Ford looks like it's going it alone in the ridesharing world. Back in December of 2015 Ken Washington, vice president of research at Ford, told Automotive News that, "Our vision is to be a mobility service provider, beyond building a vehicle that would be in somebody else's fleet. We see this as a business we want to be in." At the time of the interview Ford was testing an app of sorts, with employees at its Dearborn, Michigan, campus able to hail rides from specially built Transit Vans.
This latest announcement coupled with that interview last year should strike fear into the hearts of Uber and Lyft. Those companies may be worth tens of billions, but Ford has been building cars for years and has a massive war chest. In five years it very well may be able to figure out how to make an SAE level-4 capable autonomous car. Once the software side is complete the hardware part of the problem simply involves reconfiguring a factory to make autonomous Fusions or whatever the hell model they settle on. If everything breaks right (including government regulations) you could be firing up a Ford-branded app and jumping inside of its robot cars for a ride across town come 2021. Tesla, are you hearing all this?