What if Driverless Cars Are Just Around the Corner?
Ford plans a driverless car in five years.
We had just sent Tom Kaiser’s story about driverless cars to the printer when Ford Motor Co. came out with the boldest statement yet about how near that seemingly sci-fi day is. Said CEO Mark Fields: “We’ll be mass-producing self-driving cars within five years.”
Calling it a “milestone moment” in Ford’s history, Fields announced “our intent to have fully autonomous vehicles in commercial operation for a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service beginning in 2021 … No steering wheel. No gas pedals. No brake pedals. A driver will not be required.”
He continued: “If someone had told you 10 years ago—even five years ago—that a major American car company would announce the mass production of a vehicle with no steering wheel, you would have said they were crazy.”
Kaiser’s story, in our September issue, cogently outlines the trend, and adds an analysis about how the smartest auto-repair franchises are working to transform their businesses to stay ahead of it.
Which means people like me better pay attention. A few months ago I was chatting with a friend at a dinner party, saying I was waiting for a contractor’s bid to add a stall to the garage at my house.
He scoffed: Why would I do that, when pretty soon we’ll all just summon a car from a ride-sharing fleet? No one will need garages then. I scoffed back: That’s a long way away, and meanwhile these Minnesota winters are a bear. (Plus, my husband tragically demanded two years ago, after 16 years during which I got the stall, that it was his turn. I blame his new BMW.)
But now I’m not so sure, thanks to articles like Kaiser’s and announcements like Ford’s. If the entire American car-owning ethos is turned on its head, and in just a handful of years, I’d better think twice before signing that garage contract.