Ford, which has been criticized by Wall Street for moving too slowly on the development of self-driving cars and trucks, plans to have a fully autonomous vehicle on the streets by 2021.
The commercial vehicle, which will not include a steering wheel or pedals, will be used by ride-hailing and ride-sharing companies around the world, the company said Tuesday.
Ford is not yet providing details on what the autonomous car-share vehicle will look like or who might buy it. The two largest ride-share companies in the U.S., Uber and Lyft, have contracts with thousands of people who use their own vehicles to provide rides.
While details remain unknown, it’s clear Ford is sending a message that it’s serious about self-driving cars.
“Our view is autonomous vehicles could have just as much of a significant impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did 100 years ago,” CEO Mark Fields told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” earlier in the day.
On Tuesday morning, Ford announced that it will double the size of its staff in Silicon Valley to more than 300 people. It will also expand its research and development facilities in Palo Alto, California. In addition, Ford is investing in or partnering with companies that focus on the autonomous-drive technology.
Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for AutoTrader, said Ford’s series of announcements is intended for analysts who are skeptical about its plans for autonomous vehicles.
“General Motors has been grabbing all of the headlines of late, and Ford can’t be happy about that, especially as some Wall Street analysts have wondered if Ford is falling behind in future mobility,” she said. Earlier this year, GM said it had invested $500 million in ride-hailing company Lyft.
Fields has heard the chatter and dismissed the idea his company is falling behind.
“We’ve taken our time talking about out autonomous vehicle plans because we’re not in a race to make announcements,” he told CNBC. “But we are in a race to do the right thing for our customers and our company.”
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