Ford Motor Co. plans to launch a fully self-driving car by 2021 and is developing redundant electrical systems and many other safeguards for autonomous vehicles.
Ford recently released a 44-page report, entitled “A Matter of Trust,” which clearly states its vision of the autonomous future and the steps being taken by the company is to keep its autonomous vehicles as safe as possible.
According to Ford, it’ll be a completely autonomous vehicle sans conventional pedals or steering wheel equipped with redundant power and control systems and will be used as a ride-hailing vehicle that people can summon to transport them from one place to another.
Ford’s autonomous vehicles will follow what the company calls a Minimal Risk Condition mode. “Minor faults not affecting the ability to drive are flagged for later resolution,” Ford says, “while more serious conditions might entail the decision to securely stop at a waypoint a short distance away, on the shoulder at the next opportunity or immediately.”
The self-driving vehicles will also only be allowed to operate in specific situations that Ford deems its Operational Design Domain. That might list specific roads, types of roads, traffic situations or weather conditions. If the car’s systems detect that it’s operating outside of those criteria (on a dirt road during a blizzard, hypothetically).
Ford plans for the car to be operational during the day and night and also in light rain, but notes that the Operational Design Domain might exclude highways or “complex intersections” that might be too intense for its software to safely handle. To allow the self driving autonomous car to communicate with other road users Ford envisions working with the Society of Automotive Engineers and other groups to come up with a standard signalling system for self-driving cars.
Another safety concern with automotive data is privacy. Ford will have to implement full-time connectivity to keep the data flowing. But that opens up cars and customers to potential vulnerabilities. “Ford has sought to mitigate these inherent vulnerabilities by building security into the heart of our System Safety process,” the report reassures. “Our cyber security strategy extends not only to the vehicles’ electronics, sensors and Virtual Driver System but also to any feature connected to them, such as data ports, mobile apps and customer service systems” It states.
Ford indicated that the model will have a hybrid power train to lower running costs and that additional information about the model will be revealed closer to its debut in 2021, but the company released a teaser image in which the vehicle appears to be a van or crossover featuring a large sensor or scanner on its roof.
To help build trust, Ford will initially operate autonomous vehicles as part of a mobility service for moving people or delivering goods. Ford says it plans to have a have a fleet of autonomous test vehicles in multiple cities within the next three years.
Read the report in full here.