Ford Says Fully-Autonomous Cars Sans Pedals and Steering Wheel Coming By 2021

Automakers are racing to achieve full-self driving autonomy and it looks like Ford wants to be the leader of the pack.

To claim the top spot – and cars including those with no steering wheels or pedals by 2021 – it announced a $75 million investment in Velodyne, a leading light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensors manufacturer.

“Ford is going to be mass-producing vehicles with full autonomy in five years,” said CEO Mark Fields at an event in Silicon Valley seen in a video below. “There’s going to be no steering wheel, there’s not going to be a gas pedal, there’s not going to be a brake pedal and of course a driver is not going to be required.”

The Detroit car company has already invested in or collaborated with four startups to enhance its autonomous vehicle development, as well as expanding its Silicon Valley Research and Innovation Center.

Joining Ford, China’s Baidu also made a $75 million investment in Velodyne.

The Chinese search engine giant is already testing a fleet of driverless vehicles in China and has a Silicon Valley-based autonomous driving team.

Usually mounted on the roof, the spinning light imaging LiDAR sensors are one of the most visual indicators of a self-driving vehicle.

The technology lets self-driving cars see and avoid what’s around them, even in the dark.

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LiDAR equipment is the most expensive path to fully autonomous vehicles and the money will help Velodyne ramp up the scale of its sensors, which will help lower the cost.

On its road to self-driving cars, Ford’s president and CEO said at an event yesterday, “Ford is going to be mass-producing vehicles with full autonomy in five years,”

That means it would be a level-4 capable car as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and will not have a steering wheel or gas and brake pedals.

“The next decade will be defined by automation of the automobile, and we see autonomous vehicles as having as significant an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did 100 years ago,” said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO. “We’re dedicated to putting on the road an autonomous vehicle that can improve safety and solve social and environmental challenges for millions of people – not just those who can afford luxury vehicles.”

The first self-driving Ford cars are being specifically designed for commercial mobility services, such as ride sharing and ride hailing, and will be available in high volumes.

This year, Ford will triple its autonomous vehicle test fleet to be the largest test fleet of any automaker — bringing the number to about 30 self-driving Fusion Hybrid sedans on the roads in Arizona, California and Michigan, with plans to triple it again next year.

Presumably, they will be equipped with Velodyne’s LiDAR sensors.

Ford Motor Co.