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Ford not worried about falling behind in autonomous cars

by Justin King

Figuring out how to make a profit is a higher priority than \"just jumping in,\" says Ford\'s head of autonomous vehicles.

Ford has shrugged off criticism that the company is falling behind rivals in the race to bring autonomous cars to market.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Ford's VP of autonomous cars, Sherif Marakby, suggests rivals such as General Motors are rushing into the game without a solid business plan and a clear path to profitability.

"We certainly do not feel behind on getting to a profitable business," the executive says. "How we're going to generate the revenue and profits matter more than just jumping in and running a business someplace."

Waymo is widely considered the closest to market, securing orders for tens of thousands of vehicles from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Jaguar to launch a driverless taxi service in select cities within the next year.

GM's Cruise division may be next in line with limited testing operations in San Francisco. The company claims to be nearly ready to begin mass-producing self-driving Chevrolet Bolts. To be fair, however, Cruise has not demonstrated the same level of technical readiness that Waymo has demonstrated in terms of total miles driven and miles between 'disengagements' when a human safety driver feels the need to intervene.

Ford is already testing self-driving Fusion sedans in certain cities, including unique pilot projects with Domino's and Postmates. The company is also working on a new model that will not have a steering wheel or other human controls.

"With ride-hailing there are peaks and valleys in the day, so we're thinking about filling all the gaps, all the valleys, for these expensive assets," Marakby says.

Ford hopes it can launch a profitable autonomous-car business by 2021.