Ford plans to begin its autonomous vehicle commercial operation in 2021, the automaker announced. File Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI
Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Ford Motor Company has announced plans to develop self-driving cars by 2021 for ride-hailing and delivery services.
Ford Autonomous CEO Sherif Marakby told CNBC the company is focused on profitability and scalability with plans to invest $4 billion in the technology through 2023.
"We're laser focused on profitability," Marakby said. "While the vehicle is expensive, initially we're deploying it in service so the cost per mile for transportation for a person or a business is going to be lower and will be profitable for us."
Ford said it's is phasing out most cars and increasing truck and SUV production. Markaby said autonomous cars will be designed for commercial use with the goal of being at the forefront of self-driving mobility service.
"The vehicle will operate without a steering wheel, gas pedal or brake pedal within geo-fenced areas as part of a ride sharing or ride hailing experience," a company statement said. "By doing this, the vehicle will be classified as a SAE Level 4 capable-vehicle, or one of High Automation that can complete all aspects of driving without a human driver to intervene."
The company announced on Wednesday it plans to partner with Walmart and Postmates on an autonomous delivery service.
"I want investors and I want everyone to know that we are developing an autonomous vehicle service that means a whole lot more than the car," Marakby said. "What that means is ... when we launch these cars it's not just going to be the car. It's going to be an app. It's going to be the cloud ... The autonomous car will know where to go when someone orders it."
Ford has been road testing its autonomous vehicles in Miami since February, which it chose due to its congestion and traffic unpredictability. It has also done tests in Pittsburgh, Detroit and Washington, DC.
"We feel that what we're building is an autonomous vehicle mobility service and we think the future is going to continue to have more and more of these transportation methods," Markaby said.
Some analysts have said the Michigan-based automaker is lagging behind other companies like Waymo in the self-driving industry. General Motors is planning a self-driving ride-share service next year.