June 11, 2019 / 9:58 AM / 7 days ago

Ford denies it is in the self-driving slow lane

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co may be taking a cautious approach to its autonomous driving programme, but its chairman rejected claims that the U.S. automaker was falling behind its peers.

FILE PHOTO: A Ford Fusion hybrid, Level 4 autonomous vehicle, used by Ford Motor and Domino's Pizza to test a self-driving pizza delivery car in Michigan, is displayed during the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan, United States, January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo

“I don’t agree,” Bill Ford said at an auto tech conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday when asked about losing market share.

“Our self-driving system, Argo, is incredibly competitive. On the technology side, we are right up there with the very best in terms of time of development but we want to take great care before we let people in these vehicles.”

In Israel for the first time to launch an innovation centre, Ford said the timing for marketing self-driving cars was unclear given that safety issues need to be resolved.

“We are dealing with people’s lives. We have to be absolutely sure these are ready for prime time in all conditions,” he told the EcoMotion conference.

The carmaker is working with several Israeli self-driving technology firms like Intel unit Mobileye.

Ford told Reuters that ultimately, self-driving cars will come down to trust by customers.

“It’s unknown when the perception gets good enough that it is going to be ready for mass consumer adoption and that’s the part I want to make sure we are incredibly comfortable with before we launch it,” Ford said.

After Ford bought Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based self-driving startup in 2017, the company has taken aim at providing autonomous vehicle services to multiple partners, who in turn would offer them to their customers under their own brand names.

But with spiralling development costs for autonomous cars in recent years, the company and other carmakers have sought alliances and outside investors.

Editing by Susan Fenton

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