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Wed 26 Jun 2019 09:10 AM

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Driverless cars are 'a little bit in the distance' says Ford heiress

American carmaker Ford Motor Company has played down its driverless car ambitions

Driverless cars are 'a little bit in the distance' says Ford heiress
Elena Ford is the highest ranking Ford female member of the Ford Motor Company.

The era of the driverless cars dominating our roads is still some time away, according to Elena Ford, the heiress to the legendary American carmaker told Arabian Business in an interview.

“I think at this point that is a little bit in the distance,” Ford said in a phone interview when asked when she thought driverless cars would become the norm on our roads.

“But our work is all about the experience, what will the experience be for the customer at that point and how will they interact with the driverless car,” she added.

Elena Ford is the highest ranking Ford female member of the Ford Motor Company. Having worked at the iconic family business since 1995, last year she was appointed a new global role, Ford’s first ever Chief Customer Experience Officer.

The role works in the customer service division as well as sales and marketing to aid customers throughout the entire ownership cycle of a vehicle. And improving customer satisfaction is something she believes will help put the iconic brand back in the fast lane towards recovery.

Elena Ford: driven to succeed

Elena Ford could have used her famous name to party like a socialite heiress, but instead she rose to become the first female family member to hold a senior position at the iconic American carmaker

Ford is investing over $4bn in driverless technology development through to 2023. It is aiming to create a virtual driver system and is currently testing its self-driving vehicles in Miami, Washington, DC and Detroit.

Two years ago, Ford invested subsidiary Argo AI, an autonomous car division founded by former Google and Uber executives.

It is also reportedly in talks with German carmaker Volkswagen to develop self-driving vehicles, according to Reuters.


Ford’s driverless car units will compete with Alphabet’s Waymo robotaxi unit, General Motors’ majority owned Cruise robotaxi business, and self-driving car software start-up Aurora, which is partnering with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Ford CEO Jim Hackett echoed Elena Ford’s sentiment when he said in April that the company had overestimated how quickly driverless cars would take to the roads.

Too much hype has built up about how soon self-driving cars will hit the road, but they will ultimately change the world, Ford Motor Co.’s chief executive officer said.

“We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles,” Jim Hackett was quoted as saying by Bloomberg in April.

He said Ford’s first driverless cars would still be unveiled in 2021 but “its applications will be narrow, what we call geo-fenced, because the problem is so complex.”

The United Arab Emirates already has lofty ambitions in this area. Dubai aims to make 25 percent of all transportation autonomous by 2030, based on a strategy launched in 2016 that focuses on environmental and efficiency improvements.

The city’s Road and Transport Authority already launched a trial of an AV shuttle on a 700m route, with free rides for commuters.

In February, the UAE earned a place in the global top 10 for the second year in a row in KPMG’s Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index (AVRI), which evaluates how prepared countries are to accommodate driverless vehicles.


Read the full interview with Elena Ford here

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