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Ford has announced that the European testing of its autonomous cars will start on public roads in 2017.

“We have already announced plans to use an autonomous vehicle for a ride-sharing service in the US in 2021 and it is important that we extend our testing to Europe,” said Thomas Lukaszewicz, manager, Automated Driving, Ford of Europe. “Rules of the road vary from country to country here, traffic signs and road layouts are different, and drivers are likely to share congested roads with cyclists.” 

Ford also maintains that drivers are seeing potential benefits for the transportation experience arising from the prospect of driverless cars.

In a Ford commissioned survey of 5,000 adults, some 80% look forward to relaxing and enjoying the scenery, 72% will chat on the phone and 64% would have a bite to eat. Books and movies were close behind.

“People are really beginning to think about exactly what autonomous vehicles could mean to their day-to-day lives,” said Lukaszewicz. “Many of us neglect time for ourselves and for our loved ones in the face of other demands. Self-driving cars will revolutionise the way we live, as well as the way we travel.”

Ford CEO Mark Fields Fields told an audience of dealers and media at a new Fiesta launch event in Cologne this week that Ford is aggressively pursuing emerging business opportunities and that the world is moving from just owning vehicles to owning and sharing vehicles. “This opens up a massive opportunity,” he said. “Being an auto company and a mobility company is a massive business opportunity.”

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Fields also said that the traditional auto industry accounts for around USD2.3trillion of annual revenue, but that transportation services account for USD5.4trillion. “This isn’t about moving from an old business to a new business, it’s simply about moving to be a bigger business,” Fields maintains.

Ford wants to have an SAE level 4 autonomous vehicle in commercial operation in the US by 2021 and has said the initial application will be in a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service.

Ford charts path for long-term growth – Analysis