“Self-driving cars are coming,” said Bill Ford, chair of the Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) at the Forbes Reinventing American Summit. “But the technology will arrive before society figures out how to make it work. There’s a whole element that needs to be worked out.”
His statement echoes a trend that many have seen coming, but hasn’t quite gotten to the point of successful execution quite yet. However, like many others in the industry, Ford sees technology is playing a crucial and central role in the vehicles of tomorrow.
Bill Ford is the great-grandson of the company founder, Henry Ford. He thinks that while autonomous cars are en route, the technological revolution goes beyond self-driving cars, Forbes said. Not necessarily in the form of computers and software, but things like materials — for example, the aluminum-bodied F-150 that will be hitting showrooms later this year.
“We used to talk in five to seven year cycles, but we’re moving to software cycles now. We’re learning to speed everything up,” Ford said.
Further, Ford discussed the recent financial crisis that presented a rather rude awakening for Ford, as well as the auto industry at large.
“The biggest trouble we’ve gotten into in the past is when we’re drinking our own Kool-Aid,” he said. “The scaring that we’ve had in the last go around will remain with us for a long time. Part of my role is to be the institutional memory for this company.”
Forbes quoted him as also saying that he believes Ford needs to refocus on “what matters most,” and that he plays a role in that transition. Ford is much more than a manufacturing company, he said. “I said to our company – we’re a personal mobility company. Whatever form that takes, we need to pursue.”
Ford has been working with the University of Michigan as well as Stanford and MIT to develop its autonomous system, but it’s far from alone. Nissan, Google, and several other companies are also working on programs to take the human aspect out of driving, riding on the theory that the removal of possibility for human error with make roadways safer.