Buckle Up: Driverless Cars Going Full Speed Ahead at Mcity
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same vision”: to help create a market for self-driving cars. His company plans to do a lot more autonomous vehicle research and development in Michigan, he says. To that end, the company announced last week that it will soon open an assembly plant in southeastern Michigan its first outside of Europe. Coron says the company now has 168 employees, up from six just three years ago.
Ford is similarly moving full speed ahead on its autonomous vehicle development plans. The company sent shock waves through the industry last month when it replaced CEO Mark Fields with Jim Hackett, a former furniture exec who had been overseeing Ford’s mobility program prior to being elevated to the top spot.
In February, Ford said it will invest $1 billion over five years in Argo AI, a robotics and machine learning startup founded by former Uber and Google engineers. Argo AI will be responsible for developing the “brain” of autonomous vehicles, while Ford focuses on the hardware side of production. (All of these moves came after Ford famously declared that it would have self-driving cars on the road by 2021—four short years from now.)
Ford and Navya’s plans aside, there is still work to be done on the consumer education front. Researchers at U-M’s Transportation Research Institute have studied the public’s acceptance of self-driving cars so far and, according to their report, the vast majority of respondents (95 percent) still want a steering wheel, gas pedal, and brake pedal available to control in a self-driving vehicle.
Forty-six percent in the national survey said they preferred to retain full control while driving, with just under 16 percent saying they preferred a fully autonomous vehicle. Roughly two-thirds of the 618 people surveyed said they are “moderately or very concerned” about riding in a fully autonomous vehicle, while about half of those surveyed have the same concerns about partially autonomous vehicles.
However, Coron says in his experience, people don’t get nervous about riding in self-driving cars until they realize they’re inside one—meaning that if the ride is safe and smooth, consumers are generally satisfied. Morton says that idea dovetails to some degree with Mcity’s research.
“It’s important for consumers to be exposed to autonomous vehicles in a safe, reliable way,” Morton says. “We’ve already seen the potential to really open the minds of the general public. Reading about the technology is one thing, but experiencing it is another.”