Ford CEO Mark Fields told journalists and analysts during a dinner at the 2015 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas that there is a possibility that autonomous cars will be on the road in five years.
“Fully autonomous vehicles are a real possibility,” said Fields. “Probably, in the next five years, you’ll see somebody introduce autonomous vehicles.”
Once the domain of futurists, self-driving cars have picked up steam in recent years due to advances in technology, and the need to safely transport commuters in an increasingly-distracted and more congested urban areas.
“You can go into a dealership and get a Ford Focus that can park itself right now,” Ford product development chief Raj Nair said. “If you want to go to the full extreme — full autonomy — literally a vehicle that has no steering wheel and has no pedals, that’s a tremendous technical challenge, but one that we believe that in the next five years will be possible.”
First out of the gate may be Mercedes-Benz. At CES, the German automaker unveiled the autonomous F 015 concept car that features four seats facing each other, and six screens that provide feedback about the vehicle and the road via technology that responds to eye movements and gestures.
“We have a master plan in place to take the big leap required getting from technically feasible to commercially viable,” Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said. “The F 015 Luxury in Motion demonstrates where this may take us.”
Ford’s Nair added that “The technology’s capability of being better than any one of us as an individual driver is definitely on the horizon. It’s not a matter of if, but when.”
However, there’s one obstacle that’s preventing self-driving cars from being sold or even driven on public roads. That impediment are government regulators around the world that currently don’t have anything in place for autonomous cars. For its part, Ford is already in talks with regulators about vehicular autonomy. But we’ll have to wait five years to see if Fields’ prediction was right.