Ford to Sell Driverless Cars to Public by 2025, CEO Says

  • Intent is to make vehicles affordable to millions, Fields says
  • Automaker chief speaks ahead of this week’s investor meeting

Ford Motor Co. intends to start selling driverless cars to the public by about 2025, its chief executive officer said.

The goal is to lower costs enough to make autonomous vehicles affordable to millions of people, CEO Mark Fields said in a speech Monday at company headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. After starting with sales of robot taxis to ride-hailing services by 2021, “around mid-decade we’ll make vehicles available for people to purchase for themselves,” he said.

“We’re dedicated to putting autonomous vehicles on the road for millions of people, not just those who can afford luxury cars,” Fields said.

The CEO is attempting to chart a new path for the 113-year-old automaker as the industry is roiled by changes from the emergence of the sharing economy and advent of the age of the autonomous car. Over the last month, Fields has revealed plans to roll out robot taxis -- with no steering wheel, gas or brake pedals -- and to expand into the mobility business by providing bikes and shuttle services in big cities. He has said he is transforming Ford into an automotive and a mobility company to succeed in this new era.

Automation Era

“We believe this next decade is really going to be defined by the automation of the automobile,” Fields told reporters after his speech, adding that he’ll offer a more detailed forecast of the autonomous future at Ford’s investor meeting Wednesday.

The robot cars eventually offered to consumers will be completely reworked in ways that will let their occupants enjoy entertainment or conduct business, he told reporters.

“Think about all the things you can do when you don’t have to be focused on driving,” Fields said. “You can design lots of things, using the interior for a lot of different use cases.”

Investors have not reacted favorably to the company’s push for driverless cars and mobility services, and seem more focused on the profit warnings Ford has issued. Ford lowered its 2016 pretax profit forecast last week to $10.2 billion from at least $10.8 billion because of the cost of an expanded recall of faulty door latches. That came after the automaker said in July its profit outlook was “at risk” due to rising costs and slowing sales as the U.S. auto market plateaus.

Ford rose 2.6 percent to close at $12.70 in New York, as the broader market rallied. The shares have declined 9.9 percent this year.

Plenty of Competition

Others are putting driverless cars on the road ahead of Ford. Singapore last month unveiled the first autonomous taxi service, run by NuTonomy, a small startup. Uber Technologies Inc., founded in 2009, will soon let users of its popular ride-sharing app hail autonomous Volvo sport utility vehicles in Pittsburgh. Alphabet Inc.’s Google self-driving car project also has indicated it will move from testing to commercialization by the end of the decade.

Fields said Ford will still benefit from being one of the first to field fully driverless cars and cautioned against comparing its effort to others.

“We’ve been at this, guys, for over 10 years now, don’t confuse activity with progress,” he said of his competitors. “Being in the forefront is important. We may not be first, but when we do come out with it, we want to make sure that it’s accessible to millions.”

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