Ford to start European testing for autonomous cars in 2017
Ford boosts autonomous vehicle program with AI investment
Ford boosts autonomous vehicle program with AI investment

Ford to start European testing for autonomous cars in 2017

Ford has released the results of a survey into consumer expectations of autonomous vehicles, as well as revealing that it will be testing self-driving cars across Europe in 2017.

Autonomous cars are beginning to seem an inevitability. A range of technology giants and manufacturers, from Uber to Google to Tesla, are all deep into testing as self-driving vehicles are developed and refined. Now, after the August announcement that it will be mass producing autonomous vehicles by 2021, Ford is ready to begin testing across Europe in the new year.

Read more: Oxbotica & TSC complete UK’s first driverless car trial

Ford announced the news along with the results of a survey into customer attitudes towards the technology. It seems that many are coming around to the idea of sitting back and enjoying the ride, and are receptive to the boost in productivity that autonomous vehicles could bring.

Of 5,000 adults surveyed, 80 percent look forward to relaxing and enjoying the scenery, 72 percent will chat on the phone, 64 percent would take the time to eat, with books and movies close behind.

A 2015 survey from Ford suggested that Europeans actually find commuting more stressful than work itself, and spend around ten days each year in their cars.

Ford: People realize potential of autonomous vehicles

Thomas Lukaszewicz, manager of Automated Driving at Ford, said that “People are really beginning to think about exactly what autonomous vehicles could mean to their day-to-day lives. Many of us neglect time for ourselves and for our loved ones in the face of other demands. Self-driving cars will revolutionize the way we live, as well as the way we travel.”

“We have already announced plans to use an autonomous vehicle for a ride-sharing service in the U.S. in 2021 and it is important that we extend our testing to Europe,” he added. “Rules of the road vary from country to country here, traffic signs and road layouts are different, and drivers are likely to share congested roads with cyclists.”

Safety an ongoing issue

While there’s no doubt that self-driving cars should, in theory, eliminate human error and reduce the number of accidents on the roads, there’s still a long way until we reach that point.

Speaking with Internet of Business, David Eden, future technologist and product innovator, Tata Communications, argues that autonomous cars are well ahead as far as IoT development goes.

“The automotive sector has been leading the way in IoT for some time,” he said. “It is now feasible that seeing a self-driving car on the road will turn from an oddity to an everyday occurrence in the next 10 to 15 years.”

“Yet, the many incidents experienced by companies testing autonomous vehicles show that it is still early days for the driverless cars revolution. For self-driving cars to become truly autonomous vehicles, these companies must look at the connectivity which this smart technology will rely on. There needs to be a deeper understanding of the demands that the data traffic generated by hundreds, thousands and ultimately tens of thousands of self-driving cars will put on network infrastructures around the world.”

Jonathan Hewett, CMO at Octo Telematics, pointed to issues surrounding liability that are yet to be resolved. “Autonomous cars have the potential to significantly reduce the number of accidents that occur, meaning fewer insurance claims. However, we will need sophisticated ways to assess the liability of different forms of transport on our roads from manual, semi-autonomous to fully autonomous vehicles. Without telematics, you can’t make autonomous vehicles a reality.”

In related news, Nissan has announced plans to roll-out autonomous vehicles from next year, going first to Japan and India, followed by other countries in 2020. The firm is also planning to retrofit Internet connectivity to older cars and – interestingly – use Big Data technologies to help notify drivers when their vehicle needs to go in for maintenance.

Related: US car giant harnesses IoT and Big Data in mobility quest