According to the recently issued Navigant Research Leaderboard Report, OEMs ranked by their autonomous drive technology are being led by Ford, followed closely by GM, Renault-Nissan, and Daimler.
Interestingly enough, this study puts the rest of the carmakers, but also technology companies – from Tesla to Waymo or Uber – in contender or challenger positions, contesting the rather general common public perception that Tesla is actually ruling the self-driving race. In addition, Ken Washington, Ford’s vice president of research and advanced engineering, talked about the subject at the SAE WCX, formerly known as the World Congress conference taking place in downtown Detroit. During his opening keynote, Washington announced the timeline for the introduction of a fully autonomous vehicle: 2026 at the earliest and 2031 latest.
This actually significantly sets back the previous timeline – of 2025 for the consumer model. But the manager did back Ford’s previous stance for a Level 4, highly autonomous vehicle getting in the fleet of a ride sharing company by 2021. The jump from fleet operator to consumer vehicle will then take at least five – or possibly ten years – due to certain constraints. For example Washington cited the need for more sensors in or near streets, better AI capabilities for decision making, and a way to interact with non-smart cars. “We have a ways to go before this becomes a reality,” he said. “At Ford, we are working very very aggressively to make this a reality by 2021. … This is not science fiction. This is not a research project. This is something we’re going to make happen, and others will, too. And it’s happening because the technologies are making it possible.”