Yesterday, Ford confirmed that they expect to develop self-driving cars by the year 2021. Although we already have some semi autonomous cars on our roads (automated parallel parking, cruise control, lane departure sensors, etc.) Ford has said this will have SAE level 4 automation.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) developed a level system to rank the level of automation of vehicles. They rank vehicles on a scale of 0-5, No Automation through Full Automation.

sae-autonomy-standards

An SAE Level 4 means high automation. “A true level-four vehicle is one that takes the driver fully out of the piloting process.” This is a level of automation we have not yet seen on public roads.

These vehicles would not have a steering wheel or pedals for the driver to control. This technology would leapfrog the semi-autonomous systems like GM’s Super Cruise and Tesla’s Autopilot that require drivers to take control at a moment’s notice.

Although full automation has been on the timeline of future transportation for years, many believed that this technology would be many years down the road. A transportation powerhouse like Ford claiming they have plans for high automation by 2021 means many other companies will attempt to speed up their progress to match Ford. Ford has forced the hand of the entire vehicle industry. News about other car companies is soon to follow.

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