Ford will delay autonomous auto plans until 2022

Automaker Ford announced this week during its quarterly earnings report that it intends to delay its plans to launch an autonomous vehicle service until 2022. The reason for the delayed launch is laid squarely at the feet of the coronavirus pandemic that has led the automaker to rethink its market strategy. In its quarterly earnings, Ford reported a massive $2 billion loss.

That loss was a major tumble compared to the profit of $1.1 billion in the same period last year. The coronavirus outbreak has forced Ford and other automakers to shutter production around the world and resulted in significant declines in vehicle sales. Ford had previously planned to launch its autonomous vehicle service in 2021.

Ford has been pursuing parallel tracks for its autonomous auto business in the US. One of the tracks was testing and homing in on what an autonomous vehicle business model would look like. The other development track was working on autonomous vehicle technology.

Ford has its Argo AI arm that is developing the virtual driver system and maps required for the autonomous vehicles to operate. Ford has been testing its market strategy using pilot programs with partners that include Walmart, Domino's Pizza, and Postmates. Ford said of its postponement that it needed to study the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on customers.

Ford said that understanding customer behavior is a critically important part of its mobility service. The automaker continues to stress that the autonomous auto service will be built around "trust in making people's lives easier." Another interesting thing that came out of the earnings report was a comment by Ford CEO Jim Hackett that one-third of all Ford sales are now online in China. Ford also says that it will update fans on launch timing for the Mustang Mach-E and highly anticipated Bronco once it has a better understanding of operational readiness when manufacturing comes back online.