CEO says Ford is ‘getting close’ to Level 3 autonomous driving that enables ‘hands and eyes off’

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CEO says Ford is ‘getting close’ to Level 3 autonomous driving that enables ‘hands and eyes off’


In a recent interview, Ford CEO Jim Farley discussed the American automaker’s progress in autonomous driving, stating that it has achieved Level 3, which allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road. However, it’ll still be a while before Ford customers get to test it out.

Autonomous driving remains a hot topic in the world of EV innovation, but much like the 1960s vision of a post-millennium future full of flying cars, true self-driving vehicles are taking much longer to come to reality than anticipated.

Despite its name, Tesla’s “Full-Self Driving” feature is not even close to the Level 4 standard that truly represents such capabilities. In fact, Tesla’s Autopilot is not even Level 3 by SAE standards; the only automaker to deliver vehicles with that level of autonomy is Mercedes-Benz and its Drive Pilot ADAS. Still, that feature is only authorized to operate on approved highways in the US at speeds below 40 mph.

Level 3 autonomy means the driver can take their hands off the wheel and their eyes off the road, and the car will be in control (and liable for any accidents). Most automakers, like Ford, have achieved Level 2 autonomous driving, which enables hands-free but eyes up.

In fact, Ford’s BlueCruise won Consumer Reports’ top spot for driver assistance systems in 2023, beating out GM’s Super Cruise. Tesla placed seventh. Recently, Ford CEO Jim Farley shared an update on the automaker’s progress in autonomous driving, which has already reached Level 3 at the prototype stage.

Ford autonomous
Ford’s Level 2 BlueCruise autonomous driving feature / Source: Ford Motor Company

Ford CEO: Level 3 autonomous driving coming in 2026

In a recent interview with Bloomberg TV, Ford CEO Jim Farley relayed that the company has already been testing out Level 3 autonomous driving, and the technology is about two years away from making its way to passenger EVs. Per Farley:

We’re getting really close. We can do it now pretty regularly with a prototype, but doing it in a cost-effective way is just the progress we’re going to need to make.

Level 3 autonomy will allow you to go hands and eyes off the road on the highway in a couple years so then your car becomes like an office. You could do a conference call and all sorts of stuff.

Farley didn’t share any details of how Ford intends to achieve Level 3 autonomous driving or whether the automaker is exploring LiDAR or vision camera technologies… or both. In 2022, Ford absorbed its autonomous driving arm, Argo AI, stating that full self-driving was too far off.

Given the quick success of hands-free driving through Level 2 ADAS, Level 3 feels like a natural next step for the industry and feels much more plausible than full autonomy being promised by other automakers. All eyes will be on 2026 to see if Ford can deliver a mass-market EV with Level 3 autonomous driving capabilities.

We will keep enjoying hands free driving with BlueCruise, Super Cruise, and Autopilot until then.

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