Ford (NYSE: F) has filed a patent for an automobile with no steering wheel or pedals.
The US patent granted on August 10, is for a vehicle with optional steering wheel and pedals, Endgadget reported. That means the driver controls can be removed entirely from vehicle if designers or owners want.
This would allow for a completely self-driving vehicle over which riders would have no control. Uses for such vehicles might be a taxicab or shuttle that would haul passengers around a particular area such as a resort or college campus. The vehicle can also be used to haul those people do not want driving such as drunks, children, prisoners or the blind.
Other uses would be to haul cargo or freight around a particular area. For example a van or pickup that hauls boxes back and forth in a warehouse, or at a construction site.
The design in the patent would also allow for the steering wheel to be switched off. That means the car can be placed in a completely autonomous mode if the driver desired.
Is Ford Getting Rid of Steering Wheels?
Vehicles that lack steering wheels are nothing new; the much-maligned Google Car of a few years back had no steering wheel. Although there is no evidence that Ford has actually built the car without a steering wheel. Interestingly enough Ford helped standardize the steering wheel with its’ Model T released back in 1908.
Ford is betting heavily on autonomous vehicles it has invested $1 billion Argo AI a company trying to develop artificial intelligence (AI) for automobiles, The Verge reported. Argo is a San Francisco unicorn that is less than six months old.
Argo is trying to develop a system that will let Ford vehicles see via radar and light detection (LIDAR) and think. That is it hopes to create machines that know where they are and understand their environment true artificial intelligence. One way it hopes to achieve that is through machine learning.
Argo is headed by Bryan Salesky a veteran of Alphabet’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Waymo project. The road to developing self-driving vehicles will be rocky, Ford’s new CEO Jim Hackett admitted he doesn’t know how will be deployed in cars in a San Francisco Chronicle interview.
Vehicles are getting Smarter
Although Hackett make one very interesting admission:
“We don’t know that autonomous vehicle intelligence in the future will all be delegated to a service that no one owns but everyone uses,” Hackett said. Notice he said intelligence which points to AI as the future. He also made another fascinating remark.
“Vehicles are getting smarter, in the traditional business,” Hackett said. “And with the promise of the future business — autonomy — the vehicles are going to get much smarter. That guarantees, in a way, that Ford’s vehicle history is an advantage.”
Some of those smarter vehicles are already on the streets. News reports indicate that self-driving buses are hauling passengers in Denver and Sydney, Australia. It looks as if Ford might just take the lead in self-driving vehicles.