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Ford’s mass market self-driving cars may be five years away, but the company has invited us to ride inside one of its prototype autonomous vehicles today. Today, as in, right now, at Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.

We’re going to stream the ride here, and we’re ready for your questions. The video will appear momentarily.

Just think: yours truly oohing, aahing — audibly breathing — after every ghostly turn and gut-tightening stop. Future generations will look back at this moment, the rise of self-driving cars, and you’ll tell your grandchildren: “I watched that live, via Facebook.” And they’ll ask, “What’s Facebook?”

Amid competition from Google, Uber, Tesla, Mercedes, Volvo, and plenty of others, Ford aims to mass-produce autonomous cars — without steering wheels — by 2021.

The expansive popularity of ride-hailing services (namely, Uber) is central to Ford’s plan to bring its inevitably costly autonomous cars to market.

“Starting in 2021, if you want to get around the city without the hassle of driving or parking, Ford’s new autonomous vehicle will be there for you,” said Ford CEO Mark Fields at an August press conference in San Francisco. Ford doesn’t necessarily expect you to buy one of its self-driving cars in 5 years, but if all goes well, you may wind up inside one anyway, through some sort of partnership, or possibly a Ford-branded ride service.

Ford’s self-driving and ride-hailing ambitions, its investment in sensor company Velodyne LiDAR, and its acquisitions of machine learning firm SAIPS and shuttle bus startup Chariot, collectively form Ford’s new identity as “a mobility company” — not “just an auto company,” says Fields.


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