Ford Chairman: Automakers Must Respect Drivers Worried About Autonomous Technology

Sep 09, 2014 04:30 PM EDT | Matt Mercuro

Ford Motors Executive Chairman Bill Ford thinks some drivers may be scared by new technologies that would allow vehicles to communicate with each other and drive themselves, so the auto industry will have to provide consumers opt out options for such features.

"A lot of this really cool technology, kind of freaks some people out," Ford said during an "intelligent transportation" conference, according to Reuters. "Some people hear 'autonomous driving,' and say 'Oh my God, I never want to get into that vehicle,'" he added, referring to self-driving technology. "Other people say, 'I don't want my car talking to other cars. That's terrible.' We have to do this thoughtfully."

Ford believes that privacy will be an important concern as self-driving and connected vehicles are developed to try reducing traffic deaths and congestion.

"We believe, at Ford, that opting in is important so people do have that comfort," said Ford.

Companies all over the world are busy trying to develop features like brakes that automatically work when they sense a collision or slow down because a vehicle is ahead on a highway has warned that traffic has stopped. For example, Internet search company Google has made progress in developing technology for a driverless car.

General Motors announced this weekend plans to introduce a new vehicle in 2016 that will be able to communicate with other vehicles. It will also introduce a vehicle equipped with semi-automated hands-free driving technology.

Ford told an audience he saw an accident on Sept. 7 in which a man, who was texting while driving, hit a tree. Some features will help avoid that situation, though most automakers believe a completely driverless car won't debut anytime soon.

"Right now, you have to have eyes on the road, hands on the wheel and it's going to be that way for a while," Ford said. "Even as we start putting in a lot of these features that will assist you, the driver still has to be vigilant and in control."

As the industry evolves to the point where Google's self-driving technology is realistic, it won't seem like a big deal since new features will have been added gradually over time, Ford said.

The ultimate goal is to have forms of transportation on a single network communicating with each other. The industry has to work together to make it work, since you can't have Ford vehicles just talking to other Fords.

For now he thinks electric-powered vehicles are probably the best option, but an "over-reliance" on coal-fired plants compared to pure electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids isn't an ideal solution, according to Reuters.

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