But by 2021, the company plans to have fleets of the new vehicles on the road as part of an on-demand mobility service that would compete with the likes of Uber and Lyft.
What seems clear at the moment is that autonomous vehicles would not be available for personal purchase, to begin with.
Ford claims that production will simply be too expensive for them to be affordable for the average consumer. However, given that an autonomous ride-sharing service would be able to operate significantly more cheaply than one requiring human drivers, for many people hailing rides as needed might end up being more affordable than owning a car at all.
Fields was quick to emphasize, however, that Ford is by no means planning to phase out the creation of conventional cars, nor is it attempting to transition away from producing personal vehicles. Instead, the company plans to expand into both markets simultaneously.
In order to achieve its ambitious 2021 goal, Ford is tripling the number of cars in its self-driving test fleet with 30 of the Fusion hybrids taking to the roads in California, Arizona, and Michigan as of the end of 2016. Then, in 2017, that number will triple again.
The American carmaker has also expanded its research into advanced algorithms, 3D mapping, LiDAR, and radar and camera sensors, and also acquiring and investing in a number of companies in Silicon Valley and beyond.