With all the latest automotive technology being released — self-parking, auto-braking, radar, adaptive cruise control, and so on — it’s only a matter of time before cars reach the point where they can do away with human contribution altogether. While fully autonomous cars still feel like a phenomenon relegated to the future, Ford (NYSE:F) Executive Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. has reminded us that such machines may be here sooner than we think.
“The car as we know it, and how it’s used in people’s lives, is going to change really dramatically and it’s going to change fast,” the great-grandson of the company’s founder said, according to Chicago Tribune. “Here we stand on the cusp of a series of revolutions,” he continued, “The car is really becoming a rolling group of sensors.”
Many elements that are already found in existing vehicles are key elements to self-driving cars. Adaptive cruise control uses a radar to stay a determined distance behind the vehicle in front of it, regardless of the speed that the car ahead is moving at. Cars are also equipped with self-parking mechanisms, making the headaches of parallel parking a thing of the past.
Within the next five years, more of these systems will be finding themselves in cars, further limiting the interaction that the driver has with the vehicle. California, Nevada, and Florida have all passed legislation permitting the use of autonomous vehicles on public streets.
Safety is unsurprisingly the number one concern with autonomous cars, and Ford Jr. pointed out that manufacturers must find ways to return control to the occupant in case of an emergency.
Another factor that Ford Jr. pointed out was the ever-increasing vehicle population. In a world of 7 billion people, there are nearly 1 billion cars on the road. And that number will only head north as the world’s population continues to increase: by 2050, estimates put the tally at 4 billion vehicles on the road, with most of those in cities.
“How are we going to move people in an environment that looks like that?” Ford Jr. asked. “That’s going to change everything for our business. If we don’t start imagining this future, and then start trying to help shape this future, we’re going to be left behind, because this future is going to happen with or without us,” he noted, and added that working on long-term solutions was necessary for his company.
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