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Ford wants your cabdriver to be a robot

Ford wants to replace your Uber driver with a robot. The automaker announced Tuesday its plans to put its own high-volume, self-driving cars on the road in just five years.

The company made its announcement during a live video stream, with CEO Mark Fields declaring that the company is “dedicated to putting on the road an autonomous vehicle that can improve safety and solve social and environmental challenges for millions of people — not just those who can afford luxury vehicles.”

Ford’s plans call for the company’s autonomous vehicles to hit the road by 2021 and be used in conjunction with ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. As it stands, it would make sense for Ford to work with Uber, as the company is already testing Ford’s existing autonomous vehicles, while Lyft is working with GM.


Read More: Self-Driving Cars Are Coming Soon to a Highway Near You

Ford specifically says its vehicles will be rated SAE level 4 on the Society for Automotive Engineers International autonomous vehicle scale and will have no steering wheels or gas pedals. The SAE’s scale runs from 0 to 5, with 0 meaning the car is completely driven by a person and 5 meaning the car is fully autonomous.

A level 4 rating means the cars will work in certain, but not all, driving modes. That could mean the cars might not be able to drive on their own during extreme weather such as blizzards.

Ford is working with four main companies to bring its autonomous vehicles to the road: Velodyne, which creates the cars’ light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensors; SAIPS, an Israel-based computer vision and machine learning company; Nirenberg Neuroscience, a machine vision company and Civil Maps, which helps develop 3D mapping capabilities for Ford’s vehicles.

This isn’t the first time Ford has said it will have self-driving cars on the road in the near future. During CES (a consumer technology trade show), the company made a similar claim, while touting the fact that its 30-vehicle strong autonomous fleet is the largest of any automaker in the world in testing. Ford, on Tuesday, said expected to triple that amount by next year.

What remains to be seen, however, is how Ford expects to make its self-driving technology more aesthetically palatable for the everyday consumer. Right now, the company’s autonomous cars are mounted with roof racks covered in large continuously spinning LiDAR sensors. Sure, that’s not a problem for a commercial fleet of self-driving cabs. But chances are if you’re buying a car on your own, you’ll probably steer clear of such a vehicle.

Hopefully Ford will unveil a more attractive version of its self-driving cars sooner rather than later.

Email Daniel at; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.