Differing from GM, Tesla
Fields said Ford’s first autonomous vehicle would meet what’s known as Level 4 autonomy under a scale developed by SAE International that ranges from 0 to 5. By jumping immediately to Level 4 -- one step below complete autonomy in all driving environments (see graphic) -- and eliminating the steering wheel and pedals, Ford’s strategy differs from how General Motors and Tesla are rolling out the technology.
Within a year, GM plans to introduce a fleet of autonomous Chevrolet Bolts to be tested by the Lyft ride-hailing service it partially owns. Tesla has taken incremental steps toward autonomy, most recently with a feature it calls Autopilot, but several recent crashes have raised concerns about the technology and about whether drivers misunderstood their need to continue paying attention and take over control of the vehicle.
“We abandoned the stepping-stone approach of driver-assist technologies,” said Raj Nair, Ford’s product development chief, “and decided we were going to take the full leap to deliver a fully autonomous, Level 4 capable vehicle.”