DETROIT — Ford Motor is shifting its approach to autonomous-vehicle technology.
In 2016, Ford said it would largely pass over Level 3 autonomy and instead focus on Level 4 — vehicles that do not require human control — while continuing to develop Level 2 driver-assist features such as blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping systems. (Automation technology is categorized on the SAE International spectrum ranging from Level 0 to Level 5.)
At the time, Ford executives said they did not know how to responsibly manage the transfer of control from machine to driver that happens with Level 3 systems.
"We abandoned the stepping-stone approach of driver-assist technologies and decided we'd take the full leap to deliver a fully autonomous Level 4-capable vehicle," Raj Nair, then Ford's president of North America, said at an August 2016 event detailing Ford's autonomous business plan.
At the time, executives said the approach was unique in the industry and would set Ford apart from rivals including General Motors.
Since then, Google's Waymo unit also has said it aims to skip Level 3 because of safety risks, and Audi last year said it would not enable Level 3 features on its A8 sedan for the U.S.
Now, Ford is embracing the stepping-stone approach, with the aid of cameras and other systems that can ensure drivers are paying attention at the wheel.