Ford has made a flurry of self-driving car announcements in recent months, after lying low for years. It said it would launch an autonomous vehicle service for riders in 2021 and a self-driving car that people could buy for themselves later in the decade. Last month it acquired Chariot, which lets people share shuttles for their commutes, to help develop “mobility services” that people might use to order rides on demand, a la Uber, but from self-driving cars.
In the trenches of autonomous vehicle development at Ford is Jim McBride, a 32-year veteran of the Dearborn, Michigan, carmaker, and one of the pioneers of self-driving cars. When the Defense Department’s DARPA announced a “grand challenge” race for self-driving cars in 2004, Mr. McBride jumped at the chance to improve car safety and volunteered at the event. He led teams from Ford into subsequent DARPA races in 2005 and 2007. During the famous 2005 race, won by Stanford University, the Ford team was disqualified because their car went off course—but only because the team says it detected and went around a pedestrian who’d wandered into the race course. So Ford counts that as a victory.