The automaker is indeed looking to develop a vehicle so fully autonomous that the steering wheel and brake and gas pedals will eventually be removed, putting it into so-called Level 4 autonomy, as Bloomberg News reports. Still, the company denies the report's assertion that some Ford engineers have been dozing off during the testing process because, well, they had nothing to do.
"Reports that Ford engineers were falling asleep while testing autonomous vehicles are inaccurate," the automaker said in a statement emailed to Autoblog. The company didn't address Bloomberg's claim that Ford installed bells, buzzers, and other things in the vehicle to ensure that the engineers stayed awake. The automaker did note that "high levels of automation without full autonomy capability could provide a false sense of security, and that this presents a challenge for the driver to regain full awareness and control of the vehicle if a situation arises where the technology cannot function."
The company, which as of late last year boasted 10 Ford Fusion Hybrids with first-generation of autonomous technology, said in December that it planned to triple the size of that testing fleet.
More importantly, Ford earlier this month said it was spending $1 billion to take a majority stake of Pittsburgh-based Argo AI, an artificial intelligence and robotics startup, and is transferring some of its employees to the company to give it a headcount of 200 by year end. And, it's safe to assume that each of those workers will be wide awake while on the job.