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Ford's CTO on Scooters, AI, and Bringing Autonomous Cars to Miami

We're focused on designing the solution as a system, so that when people have access to this new technology, have access to autonomous vehicles, they're designed to enter society in a way that makes your commute experience better as opposed to worse.

Those are just a few of the kinds of questions that we wanted to have good answers to that we can then design our service around because these vehicles, these autonomous vehicles that we're working on are going to be part of a service.

One is we really liked the idea of being in a community where we serve the needs of a diverse demographic people who are in underrepresented minorities as well as a fairly dense urban environment.

One is the actual technology itself of how to replace the physical act of doing the driving with the actuators and the software that can follow a safe path.

We believe that that's going to be very different and it's going to be all around designing the experience based on your understanding of the human need and your interaction with the rest of the world that the vehicle is in.

We're taking a very similar approach in our driver-assist technology where we're providing over-the-air updates eventually and we're making the assistance to the driver better and better with each release.

We think it would be an absolute disaster if every individual company went off and did their own thing and it'd be almost as bad if every state had their own set of rules and it wasn't a sort of a federal policy layer.

I think as you start seeing more and more vehicles enter into pilot phases like what we're doing in Miami and what we're going to do with our testing in Washington D.C., I think that's going to raise the intensity of the need and yeah, I think that this country has a history of responding when the need is there.

I think there's still a lot of denial about whether it's going to really happen, [but] as the public sees the vehicles and they began to actually ride in them and they see that these experiences can be good experiences, that's where we're focused.

We [want to be] the world's most trusted mobility company, building smart vehicles for smart world, and every word in that winning aspiration is important.

You earn that trust one ride at a time, one experience at a time, and that's what we're going to focus on because then the public will begin to see, 'Oh, these vehicles actually can be good, okay how are we going to actually turn it into something that we can have access to on a regular basis?'

Ken Washington: Well, first of all I don't think they should have been surprised because we've been talking for a long time about the fact that we are focused on mobility and the fact that...it's in our DNA to democratize the ability to access affordable and reliable and safe transportation and mobility services.

It should have been kind of like, well, of course Ford bought an electric scooter company, because it can be part of a multimodal smart design solution for helping people get where they need to go.

You could imagine one day we'll have all of that tied together in an easy-to-use and smart application that takes advantage of the massive amounts of information that we'll have from using these services and vehicles.

Dan Costa: One of the topics that has come up at this conference is the state of US competition with China in terms of autonomous vehicles, in terms of AI, in terms of just traditional consumer electronics manufacturing.

Ken Washington: I think it's a bit of a call to arms to our government to work with companies and in thinking more creatively about how we might take advantage of public-private partnerships.

The message that I was trying to convey here in the broader conversation we were having in the other room is, that when we're operating here in the US, we have to make our play here as competitive or at least take advantage of all the tools at our disposal, and I think we're leaving a few options on the table.

We put together a pretty straightforward plan for executing our strategy and that plan starts with having a winning portfolio and in that winning portfolio, bringing the Bronco back was a really important thing for us to do.

We want it to bring it back to really go after the consumers in that market who love adventure and they love the feel of the prior Bronco and we're hoping to scratch that as just right with this new Bronco.

Dan Costa: I keep get reminded that I should probably test drive it before I decide to buy it and I'll probably have to wait a couple of years for the used market to emerge, but I'm super excited to see it.

It can change the efficiency of how we do our work, but same time it raises lots of really difficult and challenging questions about the workforce and the need to retrain our workforce and what the demographics of our workforce is going to look like in the future when we've got all these AI-powered tools and services.

I'm a bit of a smart home geek and even though I know exactly kind of how all of it works, when you see it come to life and kind of do things for you, it always sparks wonder.

These custom bespoke smart home modules that people would build into luxury homes and so it was very much like the model of early luxury cars, you have to be rich to have one.

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