As a result, Ford wants to go straight to Level 5 autonomous cars.
Despite rapid progress being made with autonomous cars, there are still several hurdles to completely self-driving vehicles. One that's unexpected — but perhaps not so much once you stop and think about it — is that the engineers working on the technology keep falling asleep.
Apparently we are still all children, in that we are easily lulled to slumberland by riding inside a moving vehicle. At least that's what Ford had discovered, according to an article by Bloomberg. Its engineers, hired to monitor the robot cars — and presumably take the wheel if something goes awry — "struggled to maintain 'situational awareness.'"
Ford has tried everything. Says the report, "Company researchers have tried to roust the engineers with bells, buzzers, warning lights, vibrating seats and shaking steering wheels. They've even put a second engineer in the vehicle to keep tabs on his human counterpart." However, none have proved successful.
Raj Nair, head of Ford's product development, offered this explanation: "It's human nature that you start trusting the vehicle more and more and that you feel you don't need to be paying attention."
The upshot of this persistent issue is that Ford, like Volvo, plans to completely eliminate the driver altogether in its autonomous cars. Not in a Terminator Skynet way, but by doing away with steering wheels and pedals and turning us all into passengers. The company wants to put these cars on the road by 2021.
Meanwhile, European and Japanese companies seem content to keep drivers in the equation, but letting them take the wheel when necessary, a so-called "Level 3" autonomous car. What Ford is trying to do is skip right to Level 5. If only we could stop snoozing.