Ford Touts Its Go-Slow Strategy for Autonomous Vehicles

Ford Motor Co. tells Bloomberg News it is pursuing a long-range strategy for self-driving vehicles that focuses on viable business plans rather than flashy fleet tests.

“It’s a lot more than a car and software,” asserts Sherif Marakby, who heads Ford’s autonomous vehicle and electrification efforts. “We’re building a business.”

For example, ride-hailing services experience big peaks and valleys in demand for the costly assets represented by their fleets. Marakby says Ford is “laser focused” on looking for ways to fill the gaps and maximize capacity utilization.

Bloomberg says Wall Street analysts are skeptical of Ford’s approach. Many believe the company must respond to last week’s announcements by General Motor and Waymo of initiatives that will deploy thousands of self-driving shuttles in the U.S. over the next 18 months.

Waymo says it will add as many as 62,000 self-driving minivans to its fleet of test vehicles, which is already operating in five states. GM’s Cruise Automation unit won a $2.3 billion investment from Japan’s SoftBank Vision Fund to help bankroll GM’s rollout of robotic cars.