After several tests by its engineers, Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) finally blurted out what some automobile spectators might be thinking all along: ditch Level 3 and go full auto.
With the Society of Automotive Engineers’ automated driving levels adopted by the US Transportation Department the previous year, a 5-level rubric was set when it comes to driving automation. The rubric starts at the lowest level of Level 0 where the driver needs his or her full attention on the manipulation of the vehicle. The highest level is at Level 5 which means that the vehicle does not require any form of intervention from humans.
Head On For Full Auto
What most automobile companies go after is the opportunity to manufacture and launch vehicles that belong to the Level 3 of the rubric where human intervention will only be requested by the vehicle’s AI if it is deemed necessary, thus being called “conditional automation” level. Some say that this is the best level for all cars to go, as this allows the driver to take over in case emergency situations arise.
However, Ford’s recent developments with its very own prototypes show otherwise.
Ford’s recent test rides of its product lines that it intends to debut by 2021 proved that driverless cars are possible—if the steering wheel and foot pedals are completely removed.
Reports of the company’s engineers repeatedly dozing off while in the middle of long test drive sessions have led Ford’s product development chief, Raj Nair, to conclude that Level 3 automation should altogether be skipped.
“These are trained engineers who are there to observe what’s happening,” Nair said. “But it’s human nature that you start trusting the vehicle more and more and that you feel you don’t need to be paying attention.”
Despite having employed possible features to keep the stand-by drivers awake, like several sound and vibrating alerts, still, the engineers fell asleep. Even utilizing a second engineer to monitor the first isn’t much of a help.
“No matter — the smooth ride was just too lulling and engineers struggled to maintain ‘situational awareness,’” added Nair.
The Detroit-based company is now changing direction as it plans to implement what was only a conclusion—to launch its line as fully autonomous, which Google’s Waymo already explores but possibly upping it a notch further by doing away with steering wheels and pedals.
Ford’s Year-on-Year Gains
Posting $4.6 billion year-on-year profits for 2016, considered as one of its bests, Ford conferred $9,000 bonus checks for its more than 56,000 hourly workers. This was despite the reported plunge in its net income amounting to $800 million in the fourth fiscal quarter partly due to comparatively new pension accounting. Another $600 million of losses were due to recalls over the safety of a door hatch.
The last three months to the end of 2016 saw the wholesale volume and revenue of the automobile maker dip while it remained flat for the year period.
Solid truck sales buoyed pretax profits in North America as operating margin rose to 9.5 percent in the region. First two quarters’ gains pared the losses incurred after shares dipped from 13.88 on July 27, 2016 to 12.71 the following trading day, creating a 1.17-point gap, as seen in the chart below.
As of moment of writing, the Ford Motor Co. stock is trading at 12.58, its current intraday high, up by 0.32 percent. It had an intraday low of 12.42. Its 52-week high currently sits at 14.22 and its 52-week low at 11.07. The stock’s 14-day RSI for the day settled at 52.88, very well within levels.
Ford’s current market capitalization is situated at $50 billion with an average trading volume of 35.72 million. The stock’s price to earnings ratio is placed at 10.97 with earnings per share of 1.15 and a dividend yield of 4.77 percent.
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