Self-driving cars have more than just technological obstacles to overcome before they become common on public roads, there’s also the matter of consumer interest and government regulation, both of which have a tendency to lag far behind technological advancement. That’s why Ford doesn’t expect to have self-driving cars on the road anytime soon, despite the fact that the technology will be ready within four years. This is according to an interview with Ken Washington, the vice president of research and advanced engineering at Ford, published by Inverse on Thursday. According to Washington, Ford isn’t interested in being the first company to release a self-driving car, and went int detail about how the company expects the automotive industry to progress in the years to come.
The New York International Auto Show is a bastion of automobile innovation. New models are revealed, concept cars debuted, and theories of how people will travel by car in the future (read: autonomous vehicles) are put forth. Enter Ford executive Ken Washington, who says his company will have the technology to put autonomous vehicles on the road within the next four years, but as you’d expect, it’s a little more complicated than that. “We believe the tech will be ready within the next four years, but to put the vehicles on the road that are fully autonomous, you need more than just the tech to be ready,” Washington, Ford’s vice president of research and advanced engineering, told Inverse. From lagging laws to the fact that only 40 percent of Americans say they would purchase an autonomous vehicle, he has a point. Let’s stop there: Our chat went down while sitting on wooden blocks fashioned to look like tree trunks. They felt a little out of place on the shiny purple floor of the Javits Center in Manhattan and were an obvious nod to the auto show’s split focus on the future and reducing harm to the environment. Nearby was line of family-friendly sedans, and a rotating, bumblebee-yellow Ford GT. They all required gasoline and a human driver. On this, the first media day of the annual auto show, Washington told me that when it comes to autonomous vehicles, automakers, lawmakers, and insurance providers all need to work toward addressing what he says are the “non-technical issues” and do it “in a way that allows these vehicles to coexist with vehicles that are driven by people.”