Ford have just announced something incredible. Within 5 years they will be mass-producing fully autonomous vehicles. No steering wheel. No accelerator. No brake pedals. No driver.
But in my view the most remarkable aspect is Ford's approach to the design and manufacturing process. Instead of adopting an incremental approach to that, as the other vehicle manufacturers appear to be doing, Ford have looked at this from the value perspective.
In short they have asked the question "what do we need to do in order to lead this new market"? The answer they appear to have found is "be radical". They have realised that an incremental approach just won't cut the mustard because the world - their market - is changing too quickly. Instead they have created a brand new, top-down engineering programme dedicated to achieving their goal of mass manufacture in 5 years.
As part of that they must have also have had a complete rethink about customer value and what it might mean to satisfy the as-yet-unknown new markets that autonomous driving will create. In turn they will doubtless have reassessed their value chain, the supply chain that will be needed to feed it and the myriad new processes, both human and automated that will be required to make the entire operation work.
This is value engineering at its very best and Ford appear to have been true to their brand value of bringing life-changing technologies to millions of people. It will be fascinating to see how their competitors react. What new value models will they produce? What will all of it mean for the huge automotive supply chain around the world and how will the suppliers within that have to adapt and change.
This represents nothing short of a revolution in automotive engineering: the sort of revolution not seen since Henry Ford chose to mass-produce cars based on the combustion engine. It's an entirely new game.
As little as four years ago, our approach was aligned with the thinking of most automakers today, which is taking incremental steps to achieve full autonomy by advancing driver assist technology. This is not how we look at it today. We learned that to achieve full autonomy, we’d have to take a completely different pathway.