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OEMs

Ford's Self-Driving Car Plans Emphasize Ride-Sharing

by Sam Chase
Legacy automakers were not the first entrants in the race to develop self-driving cars. That gave tech companies and startups a head start in developing the autonomous vehicle technology that has the potential to disrupt society in major ways.

The larger car companies could afford to wait it out, watch how the self-driving car space develops and then jump in when the time is right.

And that's exactly what they have done, taking advantage of their vast resources to strike partnerships with smaller companies that have been in the AV game from the beginning.

One thing large OEMs have done that is similar to their startup brethren is remain vague about exactly what their plans are. Since no one knows exactly where things are going, everyone wants to avoid making promises they can't keep.

For that reason, a recent Medium post by Sherif Marakby, Ford's vice president of Autonomous Vehicles and Electrification, was especially notable because it laid out specific plans for Ford's approach to AVs in the next few years.

Titled "Building a Business Enabled by Self-Driving Technology," Marakby immediately makes it clear that AVs will be at the center of Ford's strategy in the coming years, with an emphasis on ride-sharing and ride-hailing programs.

"We're developing self-driving technology because the world is changing rapidly. For many people who live in large cities, owning a car is no longer a viable choice," writes Marakby.

"Ride sharing and hailing is on the rise, and shopping at malls is giving way to buying online, which is increasing package delivery services," Marakby added. "Therefore, we're building a business to capitalize on both of these trends. We plan to develop and manufacture self-driving vehicles at scale, deployed in cooperation with multiple partners, and with a customer experience based on human-centered design principles."

The move towards the more communal ride-sharing and ride-hailing as opposed to private ownership of autonomous vehicles is part of a larger trend that, as Marakby notes, is set to be of special interest in urban areas.

ZipCar executive Jonathan Hampson recently suggested that self-driving cars should not to be privately owned in large cities. Platforms such as Harman's Car-as-a-Service Solution empower manufacturers, dealers and others to manage fleets and offer these types of services more easily than ever before.

For Marakby and Ford, it's clear that a prioritization of ride-sharing and a prioritization of electric vehicles go hand-in-hand.

"Since the success of autonomous ride hailing or sharing and package delivery will be judged by the number of miles driven that generate revenue, or those carrying people and packages, we're focused on utilization time and the amount of time a vehicle can remain on the road," Marakby writes. "That's why the fuel efficiency and total range of a hybrid-electric vehicle makes the most sense initially."

Relative to how other major automakers talk about their approach to self-driving cars -- most lack specifics -- Ford's direct talk on their plan comes across as bold. More importantly, it allows Ford to stake its claim on vehicles and services that it has the power to deliver on sooner rather than later.

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