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Exclusive: Ford says fully autonomous cars may never be possible

Top Ford engineer doubts driverless vehicles


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IT MAY have created a family car without a B-pillar and a boot release that works by waggling your foot, but Ford says a car that drives itself – without the intervention of drivers – is a technology too far for its engineers.

The company told Driving.co.uk that autonomous cars, which drive themselves with no input or intervention from humans, will remain the stuff of sci-fi and that far from being made redundant, drivers will always be able to outsmart software and hardware.

Speaking about the motor industry’s efforts to develop autonomous cars, Torsten Wey, the engineer who leads Ford’s research and development into safety driver aids, said: “I doubt we will ever get there.”

Wey believes it is difficult to see a time where cars would be fully autonomous, saying that instead, “We have to debate what 80% autonomous driving means.” Wey said that instead of completely assuming control of driving, autonomous systems would complement and aid the driver, taking over selected, mundane tasks such as driving in dense traffic or cruising on the motorway.

Far from being made redundant, drivers will always be able to outsmart software and hardware, says Wey. He described a common situation where the car ahead is slowing to turn off the nearside of the road, and pull into a McDonalds restaurant or a petrol station. He said that the driver behind would instinctively know that by the time they reached the point where the car is, it would be gone.

Wey said Ford called this “the McDonalds scenario”. On the contrary, said Wey, autonomous systems lacked such cognition.

“It’s about anticipation issues,” he said.

His admission is unlikely to impress Google which has invested heavily in the development of autonomous cars. The internet giant is turning car maker itself as it prepares to manufacture 100 self-driving vehicles in its continuing development of autonomous technology.

Nissan had put a target of 2020 on its own self-driving cars. However, Carlos Ghosn, CEO, recently admitted that his company’s fully self-driving cars are further away than was first hinted.

 


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