Ford CEO Tamps Down Expectations for First Autonomous Vehicles

Too much hype has built up about how soon self-driving cars will hit the road, but they will ultimately change the world, Ford Motor Co.’s chief executive officer said.

“We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles,” Jim Hackett said Tuesday at a Detroit Economic Club event. While Ford’s first self-driving car is still coming in 2021, “its applications will be narrow, what we call geo-fenced, because the problem is so complex.”

Hackett, 63, is engineering an $11 billion overhaul of Ford, which involves closing factoriescutting thousands of salaried jobs and ditching tradition sedans to focus on high profit sport-utility vehicles and trucks. In addition to shoring up profitability, the drastic moves are borne out of the pressure car companies are under to get autonomous-vehicle technology on the road before rivals inside and outside the auto industry.