Visions of a driverless future have long hovered in the distance for futurists and science fiction authors, but the last few years have seen these visions become ever more concrete as automakers have stepped into the field. In addition to the host of established automakers developing and testing driverless vehicles, the competition has been stepped up by technology giants Google and Apple as well as innovative electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla. This wave of new activity has spurred traditional automakers to advance their own driverless vehicle programs with Ford becoming the first of the automotive giants to announce concrete plans.

Ford’s announcement took the field’s development a couple steps forward, not only announcing a firm 2021 release date, but also by taking a distinctive step towards creating a new form of mobility by dedicating the first wave of driverless vehicles to ride sharing services. Ride-sharing market leader Uber’s plans to operate a fleet of driverless vehicles sparked concerned speculation among auto industry insiders, fearing a future in which private vehicle ownership declines as people transition to these new services. With this announcement, Ford signals a bold step forward, moving ahead of the announced partnership between General Motors and ride-sharing service Lyft, in the shift among automakers towards embracing this new model and helping to pave the way towards a considerable shift in mobility.

Alongside these promising advances in private mobility, cities such as Helsinki and Los Angeles are taking public transportation into the driverless age. With its recently announced plan to begin piloting driverless buses in the city’s Hernesaari district, Helsinki becomes one of the first cities in the world to announced plans to operate driverless buses alongside regular traffic. The driverless bus service is environed as a supplement to existing public transportation services, providing demand-responsive service for high-volume areas. Plans for a similar program are underway in the Beverly Hills area of Los Angeles where authorities will establish a system of on-demand, driverless shuttles to serve areas of the city which lack efficient connections to existing public transportation networks. The system draws on elements seen in past solutions, such as Helsinki’s Kutsuplus on-demand shuttle service, offering a digital platform for riders to request vehicles instead of waiting at a bus stop.

Through these efforts in the private and public sectors, the future of urban mobility looks to undergo a sizable transformation over the course of the next five years, paving the way for reduced private vehicle ownership and remarkable reductions in traffic emissions.

Get the details on Ford’s announcement 

Read more about Apple’s push into the automotive sector 

Read up on Uber’s driverless pilots 

See how other automakers are integrating ride-sharing services in their strategies 

Find out how the City of Helsinki plans to integrate autonomous buses into its public transit 

Read about Los Angeles’ combination of on-demand public transport and driverless technology


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Reframing City Districts (ReCiDi)

A research project conducted by the Universities of Turku and Tampere which aims to form a new conceptual framework which will help shape the collective identity and common vision necessary to realize the future low-carbon and sustainability targets.

Systemic Architectures for Sustainable Urban Innovation (SASUI)

An action learning and research project conducted by Aalto University and the University of Tampere which aimed to form a better understanding of the architectural requirements for successful innovation projects.