Ford Engineers Snooze in Self-Driving Cars

FordFusionHybridAutonomous_OEM.jpg Ford Fusion Hybrid autonomous development vehicle | Manufacturer image

CARS.COM — We’d understand it if Ford engineers fell asleep at the wheel while designing the snooze-worthy Focus, but a different project has them napping. According to a new report by Bloomberg, Ford engineers have struggled to maintain “situational awareness” while riding in self-driving cars — they were dozing off — due to the smooth ride and lack of any demands on their attention.

Related: Ford Wagers $1 Billion on the Future of Self-Driving Cars

Researchers reportedly tried to keep riders awake with bells, buzzers, warning lights, and vibrating seats and steering wheels, all to no avail. The more the driverless-car “drivers” grew to trust the vehicles, the heavier their eyelids became. This led Ford to cozy up to the attitude of Google car researchers that the human element — requiring the driver to assume control if a crash is imminent — should be removed altogether.

This would defy conventional wisdom held by other automakers, such as Audi and GM, that self-driving technology transitions through an era of partial human control before going to full autonomy. By next year, Bloomberg noted, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi plan to roll out semi-self-driving vehicles that could demand human control with as little as 10 seconds’ notice.

Ford, on the other hand, is inclined to skip all of that and go straight to full autonomy, removing the steering wheel and brake and gas pedals from its 2021-debuting vehicles.

Are you ready to relinquish control completely so you can nap during your daily commute? Or would you prefer to go through a transitional period to warm up to the technology?

Read the full story from Bloomberg and decide.

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Former Assistant Managing Editor-News Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt Schmitz

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