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Posted on August 17, 2016 by staff

Ford plans ride-sharing autonomous vehicles by 2021

Ford has said it plans to introduce an autonomous car without a steering wheel by 2021.

The automotive giant sees the immediate future of self-driving cars as part of a taxi service rather than vehicles owned by private users.

Ford chief executive Mark Fields revealed the news at an event in Palo Alto, California.

“As you can imagine, the experience inside a vehicle where you don’t have to take control changes everything,” Fields told the BBC.

“Whether you want to do work, whether you want entertainment… those are the types of things we are thinking about as we design the experience for this type of autonomous vehicle.

“There will be a growing per cent of the industry that will be fully autonomous vehicles.

“Our goal is not only to be an auto company, but an auto and mobility company.”

He said Ford would continue to invest in Silicon Valley technology firms after recently buying into Velodyne, which works on object detection around cars, and digital mapping company Civil Maps.

In addition Ford will more than double the size of its Palo Alto research team and triple its investment in semi-autonomous systems.

“We’re not in a race to be first,” Fields told journalists after he was asked whether he was concerned that rival General Motors invested $500 million in Uber rival Lyft earlier this year.

Fields said in April that he views the likes of Google and Apple as potential collaborators – and that he expects Apple is already secretly working on a vehicle.

As for the question of whether Ford could partner with Uber, Lyft or another tech disrupter, Fields said “all options are open and on the table” but could decide to go it alone. Ford’s chief technical officer Raj Nair said the planned autonomous vehicles would likely not be offered to private consumers until 2025 as ride-sharing services make the cars more affordable.

Audi announced this week that it  is making vehicles that are able to ‘talk’ to traffic lights.