Ford executive says self-driving cars will only have a four-year lifespan

midian182

TechSpot Editor
Staff member

John Rich, the operations chief at Ford Autonomous Vehicles, told the Telegraph that consumers needn’t worry about cars falling out of fashion in the future. “The thing that worries me least in this world is decreasing demand for cars. We will exhaust and crush a car every four years in this business,” he told the publication.

Pittsburg-based self-driving car startup Argo AI received a $1 billion investment from Ford back in 2017, and in July this year received a $2.6 billion commitment from Volkswagen. The company has been testing its technology with Ford vehicles in several US states, including Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Washington. With 200 engineers from VW’s autonomous car unit now on its staff, its efforts in this area will no doubt accelerate.

Rich argues that as self-driving cars are cheaper and more efficient, they would be used a lot more than today’s private cars, thereby increasing the amount of wear they receive.

“Every shred of evidence we’ve seen says that as you drive down cost per mile the miles traveled goes up,” he said. “You start to help under-served populations [and] you start to move a lot more people.”

The Telegraph notes that Ford, the fifth-largest automaker in the world, is one of many vehicle companies experiencing falling sales. The six million cars it sold last year was down from 6.6 million a year earlier, as ride-hailing apps increase in popularity and fewer young people rush out to purchase vehicles.

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ShagnWagn

TS Evangelist
"self-driving cars are cheaper and more efficient"

When you are crushing a $50000+ car every 4 years (how much are these monstrosities costing, including maintenance and damages/fatalities/class action lawsuits)? Please, do explain how this is "cheaper". Cheaper is that a car lasts 40+ years. Not to mention the environmental wastes. If they can't get these to last 40+ years, they have already failed. They have yet to "win" a single thing as far as I am concerned. Not in real-world situations anyway.
 

cliffordcooley

TS Redneck
I'm a Ford guy myself and I will pass on the four year lifespan. I enjoy a few years where I am not making notes. If that means I'm not buying into self-driving, then so be it.

There is absolutely no reason why the AI can not be upgraded. Crushing the automobile every four years is planned obsolescence. The automobile has been so fine tuned, hardly anything in them changes. The only thing that changes these days is cosmetic design.
 
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Cycloid Torus

Stone age computing - click on the rock below..
Only 4 years? Maybe less! Why? Rental Unit (RU) originates from elsewhere, drives to pickup, picks up, drives to destination, drops off, drives to next pick up or around in circles until call for new pickup. Sounds like a lot of EXTRA MILES - and early 'crush' date.
 

Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
Obviously, that executive was talking about fleet and commercial vehicles and nice of him to say they are much cheaper .... we'll beat the salesmen to death with that "Ford expert" quotation!
 
is one of many vehicle companies experiencing falling sales
And the statements like that, about 4-year lifespan aren't gonna help. It's really dumb telling your customers that you are selling them a car that will be no good after 4 years.
 

Kibaruk

TechSpot Paladin
"self-driving cars are cheaper and more efficient"

When you are crushing a $50000+ car every 4 years (how much are these monstrosities costing, including maintenance and damages/fatalities/class action lawsuits)? Please, do explain how this is "cheaper". Cheaper is that a car lasts 40+ years. Not to mention the environmental wastes. If they can't get these to last 40+ years, they have already failed. They have yet to "win" a single thing as far as I am concerned. Not in real-world situations anyway.
For anyone spending X amount of money for an autonomous vehicle, that's going to end up being peanuts. It's like saying helicopter rides are so expensive and they will cease to exist. No it's not, it's simply not aimed to your needs.

However if anything, keeping an autonomous vehicle parked will cost you money opportunity wise, there will probably be services to share the car with more people, starting with a shared pool service all the way up to a personalized experience with the future airbnb of cars.
is one of many vehicle companies experiencing falling sales
And the statements like that, about 4-year lifespan aren't gonna help. It's really dumb telling your customers that you are selling them a car that will be no good after 4 years.
They are selling an autonomous driver to get the people who are willing to pay anywhere without hassles. If that's not worth it to you that's not a bad business model, you are simply not their marketing target.
 

IAMTHESTIG

TS Evangelist
That's not very green of you, Ford.

I call BS on this, there is no reason they can't make the tech modular so it can be replaced easily later down the road.

Anyway, I honestly think self-driving cars will eventually be banned by the government. I don't think these companies are willing to put in the amount of tech and software development resources that are really required for consistent, reliable operation.

Don't get me wrong, I think the tech could easily out perform and considerably reduce collisions compared to human drivers - but like I said I don't think the auto manufacturers are willing to put in what's required to truly make that happen. They don't want to lose that big of a chunk of their profit margin - and manufacturers have proved time and time again, live's are not worth profit margins. It's not until the government steps in and says "you have to make this safer" that they will really, truly, do something.
 

cliffordcooley

TS Redneck
Anyway, I honestly think self-driving cars will eventually be banned by the government. I don't think these companies are willing to put in the amount of tech and software development resources that are really required for consistent, reliable operation.
For one manufacturers will need to be held responsible for any faults along the way. People will not rely on an AI, if they will also be held responsible for faults. That is the biggest down fall for autonomous vehicles at the moment.
 

sdsdv10

TS Rookie
Not sure why so many are hung on the "4-year" lifespan for an autonomous vehicle. I understood the Ford exec to mean the cars would be sold to someone like Uber who would put them into 24/7 self-driving service. Thus, rather than the typical 10,000-15,000 miles/year of a personal vehicle, it would be more like 50,000 or 100,000 mile+ per year. After 4 years, that could mean 400,000+ miles on the car. Many current cars would be in pretty tough shape after that many miles. I don't believe he is describing private ownership, but more of commercial use, such as a taxi/Uber-like service. Not sure if I'm correct, as it wasn't explained very well in the article.

Edit:spelling correction :p
 

Reehahs

TS Evangelist
Not sure why so many are hung on the "4-year" lifespan for an autonomous vehicle. I understood the Ford exec to mean the cars would be sold to someone like Uber who would put them into 24/7 self-driving service. Thus, rather than the typical 10,000-15,000 miles/year of a personal vehicle, it would be more like 50,000 or 100,000 mile+ per year. After 4 years, that could mean 400,000+ miles on the car. Many current cars would be in pretty tough shape after that many miles. I don't believe he is describing private ownership, but more of commercial use, such as a taxi/Uber-like service. Not sure if I'm correct, as it wasn't explained very well in the article.

Edit:spelling correction :p
That makes a lot of sense.

They can potentially just replace the worn out parts (much less if electric) and reuse the electronics (after minor upgrade).
 

Markoni35

TS Maniac
You can say whatever you want against Nazis, but their Beetle lasted for 40 or more years, and this one will last for 4 years. Okay, Ford, if you make the car cost $5000 then I will agree it's a technological advance. Otherwise, go learn something from Ferdinand Porsche.
 

treetops

TS Evangelist
Well a lot of people will rent their cars out when not in use. Most people probably won't even buy cars after awhile. Eventually will have a massive fleet of synchronized ai. Less accidents, less congestion, sleeping on the way to work. In the year 2 thoussaaaand, In the year two THooousssaaaaand.
 

Danny101

TS Evangelist
And people won't last as long either when these things inevitably crash due to some software and hardware error.
 

IAMTHESTIG

TS Evangelist
Well a lot of people will rent their cars out when not in use. Most people probably won't even buy cars after awhile. Eventually will have a massive fleet of synchronized ai. Less accidents, less congestion, sleeping on the way to work. In the year 2 thoussaaaand, In the year two THooousssaaaaand.
That's a dream, a utopia vision... realistically it will likely never happen. It is a great idea having every single vehicle on public roads with intercommunication so as to prevent collisions - but yeah, no. That's probably 100 years away. By then we'll have flying cars. ;-)
 

Nocturne

TS Maniac
Part of the largest issue in the US is Dealerships, they rediculously inflate the cost of any vehicle and they add little benefit to the experience. I had a chance from a friend to see what they pay versus what they charge, and back in the day you could order direct from the manufacturers for a hefty discount versus a dealership, which they put a stop to. This may be a way for localized car manufacturers to stay current in modern times.
As long as they don't come up with some rediculous pricing convention that shoots themselves in the foot.
 

IAMTHESTIG

TS Evangelist
Part of the largest issue in the US is Dealerships, they rediculously inflate the cost of any vehicle and they add little benefit to the experience. I had a chance from a friend to see what they pay versus what they charge, and back in the day you could order direct from the manufacturers for a hefty discount versus a dealership, which they put a stop to. This may be a way for localized car manufacturers to stay current in modern times.
As long as they don't come up with some rediculous pricing convention that shoots themselves in the foot.
I'm of the opinion dealerships DETRACT from the experience of buying a car. There is a reason they have been nicknamed stealerships by many. Some of them are ok, and it in general depends on who you are working with directly; but overall they are terrible and only care about money. I've bought from a stealership three times so far in my life and despite my best efforts it seems to get worse each time. Now trying to buy private isn't fun either, people are flakes in general... but it least you only have to deal with one money-grubbing-jerk and not a crew of them.
 
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Bp968

TS Booster
"self-driving cars are cheaper and more efficient"

When you are crushing a $50000+ car every 4 years (how much are these monstrosities costing, including maintenance and damages/fatalities/class action lawsuits)? Please, do explain how this is "cheaper". Cheaper is that a car lasts 40+ years. Not to mention the environmental wastes. If they can't get these to last 40+ years, they have already failed. They have yet to "win" a single thing as far as I am concerned. Not in real-world situations anyway.
For anyone spending X amount of money for an autonomous vehicle, that's going to end up being peanuts. It's like saying helicopter rides are so expensive and they will cease to exist. No it's not, it's simply not aimed to your needs.

However if anything, keeping an autonomous vehicle parked will cost you money opportunity wise, there will probably be services to share the car with more people, starting with a shared pool service all the way up to a personalized experience with the future airbnb of cars.
is one of many vehicle companies experiencing falling sales
And the statements like that, about 4-year lifespan aren't gonna help. It's really dumb telling your customers that you are selling them a car that will be no good after 4 years.
They are selling an autonomous driver to get the people who are willing to pay anywhere without hassles. If that's not worth it to you that's not a bad business model, you are simply not their marketing target.
I don't think the roads will be able to handle both human and computer drivers simultaneously. Humans are too erratic and will make the Autonomous Car much more difficult to design. Once their fully 100% autonomous they will be vastly safer then a human driver. When the media starts saying 95% of all fatalities on the road are due to human driven cars I would expect them to be phased out rather quickly at that point.

Of course that will only happen if autonomous vehicles make it out of the early stages without bankrupting the automaker. The problem is currently if I crash a ford I usually can't sue Ford for causing the wreck. But if I wreck in a tesla that is in autopilot mode I *can* sue (even if I don't win, its definitely grounds for a lawsuit). Now increase this number to every single accident an autonomous car is involved in. See the problem?
 

Kibaruk

TechSpot Paladin
I don't think the roads will be able to handle both human and computer drivers simultaneously. Humans are too erratic and will make the Autonomous Car much more difficult to design. Once their fully 100% autonomous they will be vastly safer then a human driver. When the media starts saying 95% of all fatalities on the road are due to human driven cars I would expect them to be phased out rather quickly at that point.

Of course that will only happen if autonomous vehicles make it out of the early stages without bankrupting the automaker. The problem is currently if I crash a ford I usually can't sue Ford for causing the wreck. But if I wreck in a tesla that is in autopilot mode I *can* sue (even if I don't win, its definitely grounds for a lawsuit). Now increase this number to every single accident an autonomous car is involved in. See the problem?
How does this relate to anything said either in the topic or in the comments?

I'll still bite because even then it doesn't make sense. In that future you are forecasting, you are thinking that AUTONOMOUS cars will not be able to handle erratic scenarios. They won't be tied by roads, it's the car that's driving in any and every posible scenario, and will be as well programmed to handle "drivers".

Think of this, a tire won't explode because it is an autonomous vehicle? The AI needs to be on top of everything that could happen.
 

treetops

TS Evangelist
That's a dream, a utopia vision... realistically it will likely never happen. It is a great idea having every single vehicle on public roads with intercommunication so as to prevent collisions - but yeah, no. That's probably 100 years away. By then we'll have flying cars. ;-)
Looks like will see some kind of drone implementation first. Sky Cab. To bad they're working on infra red atm. On the first vid about at 18 seconds I was like whaaatttt