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Ford Patent Shows How Autonomous Car’s Steering Wheel, Pedals Could Fold Away

Design would allow manual driving or completely driverless operation.

by on Aug.18, 2017

A patent application illustration shows how Ford would hide the controls in driverless mode.

Autonomous vehicles, we’re regularly told, are just around the corner, and fully driverless vehicles will soon follow. Ford, for one, has said it hopes to remove the driver from the picture entirely by 2021.

Now, a patent granted Ford this month reveals that the self-driving cars Ford is working on could give an owner the option to choose which mode it will operate in. Push a button and the steering wheel and pedals fold up and out of sight. Push again and they reappear, allowing manual driving.

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That option may be essential, at least initially, as autonomous vehicle experts warn that coming up with a vehicle that can operate without a driver on all roads and under all conditions, may take years to develop, despite the optimistic prognostications of automakers like Ford, Daimler, Nissan and tech companies such as Google spin-off Waymo.

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Ford Readying Wave of New Products, Says CEO Hackett

Automaker agrees to pay $10 mil to settle harassment claims.

by on Aug.17, 2017

Prior to joining Ford, Jim Hackett was Steelcase CEO and served as Interim U-Michigan Athletic Director.

While Ford has won praise for its push into autonomous vehicles, car-sharing and other futuristic mobility programs, it has also been criticized for a lack of new products today, something CEO Jim Hackett said the Detroit carmaker is addressing.

In an interview with the Associated Press, the former Steelcase chief executive – who took over at Ford following a management shake-up in May – say there is plenty “in the hopper,” though he declined to offer details on what new products are coming. Ford has revealed plans to revive its Bronco SUV and Ranger pickup nameplates, but critics say the carmaker also needs to revitalize its mainstream passenger car and luxury line-ups.

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Separately, Ford confirmed Thursday that it will pay up to $10.1 million to settle sexual and racial harassment allegations linked to its two Chicago-area factories. It also will add new training programs for workers at those plants.

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Ford Takes Lead in Race for Autonomous Vehicles

Waymo faces challenges bringing tech to market, cautions new study.

by on Apr.03, 2017

Ford's latest-gen autonomous Fusion prototype recently began testing in several locations.

In the race to put autonomous vehicles on the road, it’s not always those who were quick out of the gate who are taking the lead, finds a new study.

Ford Motor Co., which initially took a slow and cautious approach to self-driving technology, is now in the lead, according to Navigant Research, a firm that closely follows the development of high-tech automotive hardware and software.

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Like “many traditional OEMs,” said the Navigant study released today, Ford was “skeptical about the commercial prospects for automated driving,” but it has shifted its efforts into high gear since Mark Fields became CEO in mid-2014, and has since been making aggressive moves “through a combination of strategic investments and development of supporting business models.”

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Autonomous Cars Could Make Brands Irrelevant, Warns Bill Ford

Ford chairman looks to the future of the auto industry.

by on Jan.11, 2017

Will brands matter when you don't own a car anymore, but rely on ride-sharing services, asks Ford?

Brands carry tremendous power in today’s auto industry. Say the names Ford, Toyota, General Motors or Volkswagen and you’re likely to immediately conjure up a clear image about things like design, performance, quality and reliability.

Brand image translates into sales and owner loyalty, said Bill Ford, the chairman of Ford Motor Co. But in an appearance following the media preview of the North American International Auto Show, the executive questioned whether automotive brands could become irrelevant in the near future.

Your Crystal Ball to the Future!

“What will brands mean in an autonomous world,” said Ford, the great-grandson of Ford Motor Co. founder Henry Ford.

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“Like a Kid in a Candy Store;” Bill Ford Embraces the Culture of Risk

But investors remain wary.

by on Sep.14, 2016

Ford has to decide where to place its bets in a world where this is a "panoply" of options.

When the economy began to melt down in 2008, Ford Motor Co. learned the hard way that the only constant is change. And it’s a lesson Bill Ford, the great-grandson of founder Henry Ford and the carmaker’s current chairman, isn’t about to forget.

It helped to spend 11 years on the board of e-commerce giant eBay, the executive noted during a technology conference at Ford corporate headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan on Tuesday. The event was intended to  show how a company long viewed as a ponderous, Rust Belt relic was, in many ways, moving as fast as the oft-heralded start-ups of Silicon Valley.

Insight!

“Many of the things we’re doing are far afield from a traditional car company,” Ford stressed. We’re disrupting ourselves. But rather than looking at it as scary, it’s a tremendous business opportunity.”

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Ford Planning to Launch 1st Driverless Car by 2021

Initial focus: ride-sharing services like Uber, and delivery companies.

by on Aug.17, 2016

Ford recently began testing autonomous vehicle prototypes on public roads in Silicon Valley.

It has become conventional wisdom within the transportation industry that the introduction of autonomous vehicles will be a step-by-step process, starting with so-called “driver assistance” systems and only eventually reaching the point where cars and trucks will be capable of driving entirely on their own.

Ford Motor Co. says it is heading in a very different direction, however, the Detroit automaker revealing plans to put its first completely driverless vehicle into production by 2021. The model it is working on, global product development chief Raj Nair tells TheDetroitBureau.com, won’t even have a steering wheel or pedals.

We'll Do the Driving!

“We don’t think the path to true autonomy is through a step-by-step, incremental process,” Nair said during a telephone interview. Having a driver sit behind the wheel, waiting to take over in an emergency is actually a dangerous solution, he explained because, over time, “You lose driver awareness. You lose the ability for a human to respond in a timely manner.”

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GM, Ford Insist They Will Remain Profitable in Deep Recession

Taking a “forward lean” into a “downside scenario.”

by on Mar.28, 2016

GM's Alan Batey introducing the 2017 Chevy Bolt.

Seven years after Detroit’s auto industry nearly collapsed, officials at the two largest domestic makers are taking pains to assure investors they will not only survive but thrive during the next big economic downturn.

Fears that the U.S. car market has peaked after hitting record sales of 17.5 million vehicles last year has made Wall Street increasingly wary, driving down the share prices for all the domestic makers, even as they report strong profits. But two top General Motors and Ford executives painted very different pictures for investors as the New York Auto Show opened to strong public attendance.

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“We believe the market is eventually going to plateau, but not in the immediate future,” declared Alan Batey, president of GM North America, during the annual Automotive Summit sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. And even if sales do take a tumble, he stressed, “We have reduced our break-even point to between 10 million and 11 million annual sales for the industry.”

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Car-Sharing Services Likely to Erode Auto Sales, Revenues

New study forecasts 35 million people will use car-sharing services.

by on Feb.23, 2016

A Smart car in Berlin, part of Daimler's car2go car-sharing service.

The auto industry could take a big hit to sales and revenues as car-sharing services take hold around the world, warns a new study.

As many as 35 million people will use car-sharing services each month by the beginning of the next decade, forecasts the Boston Consulting Group. That will reduce global car sales by at least 550,000 vehicles by 2021, automakers taking a revenue hit of 7.4 billion euros, or $8.14 billion at the current exchange rate.

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But the situation could get even more challenging later in the coming decade. As self-driving cars start to come to market in large numbers. “Autonomous vehicles will have a much greater impact on new-car sales than car-sharing will,” the study concludes.

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Ford Expands on Mobility Plans at CES

Google option still in the works.

by on Jan.05, 2016

Ford CEO Mark Fields holds a downsized Velodyne LIDAR "puck" that will be used on Fusion autonomous vehicle prototypes.

Ford Motor Co. outlined a far-reaching step into the future during a keynote speech by CEO Mark Fields marking the opening of the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The maker is putting “one foot into the future,” said Fields, as it expands from traditional automotive manufacturing into new areas of “mobility,” such as ride and car-sharing. Among a variety of projects announced by Fields, Ford will partner with Amazon to incorporate the cloud-based voice assistant, Alexa into its vehicles. That would allow a driver to not just open a garage door but turn on lights and adjust the thermostat by voice command.

Tech Talk!

The Tuesday morning event notably included no mention of a widely anticipated tie-up between Ford and Google, even though the automaker announced a major expansion in its own autonomous vehicle program. But CEO Fields left the door open to a later announcement, stressing that Ford is talking with “a variety of other potential partners.”

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