Ford exec doubts Ghosn's 2020 timetable for self-driving cars

Nick Gibbs is UK correspondent at Automotive News Europe.Nick Gibbs is UK correspondent at Automotive News Europe.
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Ford's head of advanced r&d in Europe doubts Carlos Ghosn's prediction that Renault-Nissan -- or any automaker -- will have self-driving cars on the road by 2020.

"All automotive companies are more or less moving at the same pace," Pim van der Jagt told Automotive News Europe. He said we are many years from handing over complete control: "The last 20 percent, when you could be fully asleep, that will be the most difficult."

Until then, he said the move toward autonomous driving will be evolutionary, with each successive car generation handing over a tenth or so of control to the vehicle.

Ford's next step after self-parking will be to offer traffic-jam assistance, which is an advanced version of adaptive cruise control that includes automatic steering. That will be available in Ford models in less than five years, van der Jagt said. Then comes high-speed self-driving on the highway, followed by country road driving, urban driving and finally total handover.

Van der Jagt shared his views this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, where Ford displayed its Fusion-based automated research vehicle for the first time in Europe.

The research vehicle, which cost more than $500,000 to create, includes expensive spinning lidar (like radar, but with light) units on the roof that built up a 3-D map of the surrounding area. That map was projected onto a screen for showgoers to see how they would look to the autonomous vehicle.

So far, Ford's research into autonomous driving has been carried out mostly in the United States, but van der Jagt's Aachen, Germany, research center will play a greater role after Ford formed a link with the local university to push forward development.

One of van der Jagt's jobs is to work on making automated elements such as braking and steering fully redundant so that every actuator and control has a twin to take over if the first fails.

You can reach Nick Gibbs at ngibbs@crain.com.

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