Ford Chief Says the Spirit of the Apple Car Spurs the Company On

By Aatif Sulleyman on at

If Apple doesn’t go on to make a car now, the world’s going to feel incredibly disappointed. Ford CEO Mark Fields has sprayed a load of fuel onto the already-quite-large fire by talking up the chances of Apple launching a car.

"Our working assumption is that they are [building a car]," Fields said in an interview with the BBC. "And that provides us with the right motivation to make sure we stay very focused not only on the product but overall on the experience that the customer has interacting with the product and the services that we have."

According to Fields, Ford is looking to work alongside technology companies, but absolutely not as a manufacturer. "There are a lot of traditional competitors that we have in our business who we know and we respect," he said. "There are a lot of new non-traditional competitors who are looking at the automotive space and looking at that addressable market and saying 'gee can we get a piece of that'.

“We are viewing that as an opportunity not as a threat and there will be some things [we can do] on our own to be able to satisfy those customer needs that technology enables. And at other times we will partner with others and that's the reason we set up a big research and innovation centre in Palo Alto because we want to collaborate with and participate in that environment."

The company, which wants to be recognised as a tech outfit as well as a car firm, says Level 4 autonomous cars -- which are able to drive themselves in an area fully mapped by computers -- will be available by 2020. However, Fields isn’t sure if they’ll come from Ford’s labs or a competitor’s.

Read More: Autonomous Cars Should Kill Off the Driving Test, Says Ford

"A Level 4 vehicle is where the passenger does not have to take control of the vehicle, but it's a vehicle that's in a pre-defined area, that's been 3D mapped, and what we call geo-fenced," Mr Fields said. "And we believe when we look at the advancements in the sensors and advancements in the software algorithms which are necessary for the vehicle to navigate, that probably by the end of the decade, in the next four years or so, someone in the industry may have a Level 4 vehicle. It may not be us, but we are working very, very intently on this."

Sounds pretty good, but not a patch on Level 5 cars, which could automatically navigate any road anywhere. Those are the ones we’ve been dreaming of ever since Google got the world excited about self-driving vehicles all those years ago. Also, I can’t legally drive and and am too lazy to take lessons, so my father and friends would appreciate the help. [BBC]