Ford Moving Forward With Self-Driving Car Technology

People like cars. People like driving cars. There’s an entire industry predicated on the obsession with driving cars. So why does Ford want to take the human element out of that experience?

Ford Motor Company has announced it is moving forward with technology that will result in fully autonomous vehicles. The company is claiming that within 5 years, their entire lineup will feature the state of the art driver-assist technologies that make driving a more automatic experience…even more so than driving an automatic transmission.

Product development quality director Randy Visintainer, a 29-year veteran in the automotive industry, has been appointed to lead an international team centered on developing the driver-assist technology so that these cars will drive themselves one day. However, the current initiative is simply to make driver-assist available for the entire fleet of Ford vehicles, F-150s and Focuses alike. On the one hand, auto enthusiasts are likely going to be miffed by the possibility that control will be wrested from their hands one day, little by little. On the other hand, the tech is more safety-oriented than anything else, as it’s focused on helping drivers stay between lanes, or brake in the event of an emergency.

Ford Moving Forward With Self-Driving Car Technology, For Some Reason

Ford Focus RS 2015 (Credit: Ford Motor Company)

For Ford’s Global Product Development VP, Raj Nair, these technologies are simply the first of five development stages toward cars that will eventually drive themselves.

“It’s a really big step from these driver assist technologies to fully autonomous vehicles,” said Nair, in a major press event held in San Francisco, near Ford’s new Silicon Valley research center.

And driver-assist isn’t all Ford is working on. The company has partnered with Carbon3D, based out of Redwood City, to used advanced 3D printing processes to develop car parts from plastic resins.

“This technology enables us to quickly create automotive-grade parts for product design prototypes – and perhaps even production parts – faster than ever before, so we can deliver new vehicles to customer even sooner,” Nair added.

So, basically, Ford is looking to become THE automaker of the future, attempting to rival Japan in the realm of technological innovation. And yet, while I can appreciate the attempt at innovating in the area of driver safety, I’m not sure how their business model necessarily benefits from aspiring to a car that drives itself. Ford is a company whose brand identity is driven by the Americana of driving your pickup and just enjoying the ride, realizing that while you may not have control over other areas of your life, you have control over this. Just you and your vehicle. Is anyone really going to be that impressed by a self-driving car at the next Cars and Coffee meet? Is a self-driving car the type of vehicle that’s going to reach out to Joe Q. Public out in Middle America? I suppose the progression of technology ordained that we would always be heading in this direction, towards self-driving cars. It was an inevitability, so it would be naive of me to argue that it’s somehow a bad idea, particularly since Ford is trying to appeal to a wider consumer base, including (and perhaps especially) people who see cars as little more than an appliance. But I just don’t know that it’s something Ford’s current consumer base is necessarily going to want.

But what do you think? Are self-driving cars a good idea or is a fully autonomous car going too far? Sound off in the comments!

And for more articles, news and reviews, follow me on Twitter: @NickRomanTV

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