Robots? Flying cars? No drivers? Ford Australia’s boss predicts the future

“This week’s Future with Ford conference gave us a bit of a glimpse into how we could be getting around in the ‘World of Tomorrow’.

Inspired by Ford’s recent announcement that it will have a fully autonomous vehicle on the road by 2021, we asked the company’s Aussie chief Graeme Whickman 21 questions about the future… because 2021 questions would just be silly.

RB: I get a bit sceptical about ‘World of Tomorrow’ discussions. I mean 2021 is only four years away, I remember four years ago it was just like today but without Donald Trump. Are we being overly optimistic we’re not really going to have fully autonomous cars on the road by 2021 are we?

GW: What we’ve said is that we’ll have a fully autonomous vehicle. No gas pedal, no brake pedal no steering wheel by 2021. It will be a commercially available and our vision is that it will probably fit into the ride-hailing ride-sharing space.

RB: So no accelerator or brake pedal, and no steering wheel. Will there be a robot driver? Or at least one of those fun-park clowns that you put balls in the mouth of?

GW: It sounds like a scene out of Total Recall. I’m not sure we’re in that space. No pedals or a steering wheel presents a challenge for us in terms of what is the human interaction and how do you give confidence and trust to the people in the vehicle – that’s work which is to be done

RB: Why ride sharing?

GW: We think ride sharing is the most viable application of an autonomous vehicle in that time frame. The one that has the biggest impact and move the needle the most. And the one that is the commercially appropriate as well. We see a future that involves people who haven’t been able to access mobility solutions in the past.

RB: But come on, there will be a Ford autonomous vehicle we’d be able to walk into a dealership and buy at some point right?

GW: As we progress further and further into the provision of mobility services you would assume there are other applications all the way through to the individual. It is logical to suggest there are greater applications for autonomous vehicles.

RB: What about for people who love driving – the enthusiast? Imagine an autonomous Mustang – that’d suck.

GW: Well I have a personal opinion that there will continue to be people who are motoring enthusiasts and will want the interaction with the vehicle. Equally there will be people who are less inclined to interact with a vehicle or love a vehicle but have a love of a mobility solution and I would hope that we could cater for both.

RB: What’s so good about autonomous vehicles?

GW: We see an opportunity at a genuine level to make people’s lives better through mobility. And we see a future that involves people who haven’t been able to access mobility solutions in the past and we genuinely hope and plan for our contribution to be impactful to other parts of society that we don’t touch now.

There is a great opportunity to help individuals who have been put by the wayside with mobility solutions – people who are visually challenged, people who have reached an age where they hand their keys back and so on…

RB: Aww… now you’ve made me feel bad. So will autonomous vehicles be the most significant changes we’ll see to the car world in the next few years?

GW: Autonomous vehicles and service provision around mobility. Those are the biggest things that you are going to see in the next three for five years.


Ford plans to mass produce a fully autonomous vehicle for car-sharing by 2021.

Read the full interview here