Ford is at the “most important inflection point” in its history thanks to the rapid development of self-driving cars, according to CEO Mark Fields.
But he’s not worried.
When Fields became CEO in 2014, he got his management team together to talk about what the world is going to look like in 15 or 20 years and what that’s going to mean for Ford’s business, Fields said onstage at Vox Media’s Code Conference on Tuesday.
Instead of panicking, Fields says that the company has started planning.
“We’re transitioning from an auto company to an ‘auto-mobility company,'” he says.
The company has started hiring more software engineers, thinking about how it could partner with cities for autonomous-driving programs, and planning for other ways that it can adapt to a world of self-driving cars.
Ford envisions a future where autonomous vehicles could become the norm, particularly in urban areas. That might seem like bad news for a car company – because less people will be buying their own vehicles – but Fields says that while there will be less density of cars, each vehicle will be used more.
The company is “thinking about it now in vehicle miles traveled instead of how many cars sold,” he says.
Instead of spending most of the day parked, cars will be used 24/7. That means more repairs and cars being bought more frequently.
Here are the three most important questions Fields says that Ford is trying to answer for its autonomous-car strategy:
Where do we want to play? Will Ford be on the commercial or passenger side of development? How do we win? What unmet needs can Ford satisfy and what’s the business model there? What do our capabilities need to be? “We’re always trying to learn,” Fields says.