Ford plans to develop fully autonomous vehicles ready for a ride sharing scheme by the year 2021.

The American manufacturer has collaborated with four start-ups, boosting its Silicon Valley team and extending its Palo Alto campus to enable development of the vehicles needed.

Mark Fields, president and chief executive officer, Ford said: “The next decade will be defined by automation of the automobile, and we see autonomous vehicles as having as significant an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did 100 years ago.

“We’re dedicated to putting on the road an autonomous vehicle that can improve safety and solve social and environmental challenges for millions of people – not just those who can afford luxury vehicles.”

Ford aims for the autonomous vehicles to be Society of Automotive Engineers-rated level 4-capable, meaning they will be without a steering wheel or gas and brake pedals.

The autonomous vehicle systems will feature light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensors, 3D mapping, advanced algorithms, and radar and camera sensors, made possible through partnerships or investments with Velodyne, SAIPS, Nirenberg Neuroscience, and Civil Maps.

Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, global product development, and chief technical officer, said:

“We have a strategic advantage because of our ability to combine the software and sensing technology with the sophisticated engineering necessary to manufacture high-quality vehicles.

“This is what it takes to make autonomous vehicles a reality for millions of people around the world.”