Ford wants to keep drivers alert on the long road to autonomous cars

21. Oktober 2014
Self-driving vehicles will make the driver redundant, but long before that, smarter cars may leave the driver thinking about other things.

Ford is already studying that problem, anticipating an evolution toward autonomous cars that will take a lot longer than projects by the likes of GoogleGoogle may suggest. For now, the motorist is still in charge -- with some help. Alles zu Google auf CIO.de

"We still have a driver-centric model. We still think the driver needs to be engaged," said Don Butler, Ford's executive vice president of connected vehicle and services. Drivers and passengers are "more comfortable" when they have some control over the vehicle, he said during a session at GigaOm Structure Connect in San Francisco.

Ford thinks autonomous cars will be real, but for now it's adding automated assistance one feature at a time. For example, it makes vehicles that can park themselves, and that can keep drivers from drifting into the next lane.

There are technological, regulatory and social challenges to making fully autonomous cars a reality, Butler said in an interview.

Cars may not be ready to drive themselves in all areas and in all weather conditions, he said. Less structured environments outside of cities may be more of a challenge, for example. Some governments may not be ready to deal with the implications of regulating autonomous cars. And most consumers don't yet trust their cars to drive safely, Butler said. Putting the vehicle in charge full-time even raises ethical questions, such as what's the least harmful action when a collision is inevitable.