Self-Driving Cars Will Only Last Four Years, Says One Expert at Ford

Our autonomous vehicle future has hit a few potholes

Ford Argo
Ford's self-driving prototype the Argo
By Kirk Miller / August 27, 2019 11:01 am

If Ford has its way, autonomous cars will only last four years.

This is not Big Auto trying to get you to hold on to your fossil fuel SUVs. In an interview with the Telegraph, Ford Autonomous Vehicles operations chief John Rich says the truncated time period is because self-driving cars will be used more frequently.

“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,” Rich says. In the car company’s defense, the cars he’s discussing will be targeted as delivery vehicles or to transport employees, meaning they’ll be on the road much more frequently.

This is around the same amount of time a New York City cab is on the road. It is, however, only a third of the amount of time a U.S. car owner owns their current vehicle.

But Ford thinks autonomous cars will need to be in use more frequently. As Rich tells TechCrunch:  “Today’s vehicles spend most of the day parked. To develop a profitable, viable business model for [autonomous vehicles], they need to be running almost the entire day.” He also explains that a lack of charging infrastructure in the U.S. and the heavy energy use of the car’s on-board tech means AVs will have a difficult time (at first) being profitable.

“The whole key to running a profitable AV business is utilization,” he says. “If cars are sitting on chargers, they aren’t making money.”

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