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Self-driving cars will only last four years, Ford says

Olivia Rudgard
A Ford Argo AI self-driving prototype car - REUTERS

Self-driving cars will only last four years because they will be used so much, a Ford executive has predicted.

John Rich, operations chief of Ford Autonomous Vehicles, dismissed concerns that demand for cars would wane in the future.

“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,” he told The Telegraph.

The Detroit-headquartered car maker plans to establish an autonomous fleet which will be used as a service by other companies, to be used as delivery vehicles or to transport employees.

Pittsburgh start-up Argo AI, which is developing cars for Ford, is currently testing the technology in five cities in the US, and Ford plans to develop this arm of its business in a new 1.2m square foot facility in Detroit.

Analysts have warned that the industry could be hit by a decline in private ownership as personal vehicles are replaced by fleets of autonomous cars operating as a service.

But Mr Rich argued that the self-driving car fleets would be cheaper and more efficient, and would therefore be used much more than private cars are currently, increasing wear-and-tear.

“Every shred of evidence we’ve seen says that as you drive down cost per mile the miles travelled goes up,” he said. “You start to help under-served populations [and] you start to move a lot more people.”

Ford is the fifth-largest automaker in the world, but like its competitors, it has struggled with declining sales, the growing popularity of ride-hailing firms such as Uber, and lower car sales among young people.

Last year it sold just under 6m cars worldwide, down from 6.6m. Car makers have also been badly hit by declining sales in China, the world’s largest market for cars.

The car maker has said it plans to transform itself into a “mobility company”, investing in start-ups and buying a scooter firm.