: Ford is withdrawing a self-driving car petition, following skepticism over near-term prospects

by | Mar 30, 2023 | Stock Market

Ford Motor Co. has withdrawn a petition to deploy a vehicle equipped with advanced driverless features, after concluding that the automobile industry is not close to profitable mass production of fully autonomous vehicles. The decision, detailed in an unpublished notice by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, follows the shuttering of the autonomous-vehicle startup Argo AI, which was backed by Ford
and Volkswagen AG


“Accordingly, NHTSA will take no further action on Ford’s petition,” that notice said. The full document was set to be published on Friday. “As evidenced by the planned shutdown of our ADS partner Argo AI, we believe the road to fully autonomous vehicles, at scale, with a profitable business model, will be a long one,” Ford said in a letter to the NHTSA, dated Feb. 13, which was posted on Twitter by a reporter with Reuters. The company, in that letter, added that it believed that it was “more prudent” to focus on developing less advanced autonomous-vehicle technology, under which an automobile’s driver still retains control over the vehicle. Shares of Ford were unchanged after hours, after closing up around 2% during regular trading. Ford did not immediately respond to a request for more information. The NHTSA received the petition from Ford in July 2021. Ford at that time was requesting a temporary exemption from several federal vehicle-safety standards for vehicles that would be outfitted with systems for automated driving. The agency put out a notice seeking public comment on the matter roughly a year later. But as Ford grew more skeptical about the near-term prospects for self-driving vehicles, it detailed the plans to withdraw the petition in February. Ford, in the February letter, said it had been seeking a two-year exemption “to further develop, evaluate, and deploy its Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Level 4 Automated Driving System (ADS) feature equipped vehicle.” The Society of Automotive Engineers, an engineering trade group, broadly defines “Level 4” automation technology as technology that does not require the person in the driver’s seat to drive the vehicle or take it over when activated. Ford, in the letter, said that it made more sense to focus on so-called Level 2 and Level 3 technologies that didn’t require an exemption. “Level 2” features still require a vehicle’s operator to drive the vehicle but offer help like lane-centering and brake and acceleration …

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