Self-Driving Trucks? Not So Fast, Says Ford’s Chief Engineer

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Public Perception, High Costs, and Regulatory Environment Amongst Biggest Hurdles for Ford Self-Driving Vehicles

Regardless of how old you are, self-driving vehicles sound pretty nutty. Whether you’re an old-timer who grew up with F1 pickups, or a teenager drooling over the newest Raptor, not being in control while behind the wheel is a concept most of us are struggling to digest.

Jackie DiMarco has spent 21-years of her life at the Blue Oval, having worked vigorously in the F-150’s EcoBoost project, the Ford Mustang, and has now assumed the role of Ford’s chief autonomous vehicles engineer. As you could imagine, such role comes with Mount Everest-sized challenges, many of which are completely out of her control.

DiMarco believes that there are several key factors that are hampering the development of self-driving vehicles, and that many of them will simply take time before they start weeding themselves out. Amongst those hurdles is the public’s perception toward self-driving cars or trucks. In an interview with Business Insider, she said that “When you talk to people, some are super excited and want to jump into their first AV [autonomous vehicle] today, and some are not as excited and not as trusting yet.”

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Further backing up her claims is a 2016 study commissioned by the Kelley Blue Book, which surveyed a total of 2,264 people ranging in ages from 12 to 64-years-old. The study revealed that a total of 64% of people prefer to have full control while behind the wheel, and also that 56% of folks surveyed would rather use a ride-share vehicle piloted by a human, rather than a machine.

Although we don’t mean to dismiss the accuracy of the study, we find it exceptionally biased. We believe that asking someone “if they prefer to have control of their vehicle when behind the wheel?” isn’t only silly, but redundant for that matter. Of course we prefer to be in control of a moving vehicle! The real question here is, if we would be willing to surrender such control to a machine, after being shown its driving and “thinking” capabilities?

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Amongst other issues are the costs of self-driving technology equipment such as sensors, cameras, radars and the ever-famous lidar. While a top-of-the-line lidar has dropped in price from $75,000 two years ago to just $7,500 today, the technology hasn’t reached a point where it’s accessible, or able to reproduced in large-scale.

Lastly, there is good ‘ole Uncle Sam. Government regulations will be one of the biggest hurdles self-driving vehicles will have to jump through (by themselves). Ha ha, get it? Many questions will be asked, and many solutions will have to be given in order to let machines govern themselves on public roads.

What do you think? Are you ready for a self-driving Ford F-150?

Chime in with your thoughts on the forum. >>

Jerry Perez is a regular contributor to Ford Truck Enthusiasts, Corvette Forum, and 6SpeedOnline, among other auto sites.

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