On the mobility side, plans unveiled in 2020 involving a “connected corridor” on Michigan Avenue between Corktown and Ann Arbor are still very much part of the vision. Farley said the automaker is raising money with “a couple of technology companies” to push the project forward.
The connected corridor is symbolic of the major challenges posed by the electrification of the industry, according to the CEO.
“Autonomy is taking longer than we thought, but we still have to solve these second order problems, like do we have dedicated infrastructure for autonomous vehicles, you know, etcetera, etcetera,” Farley said. “I don’t think we should wait for regulators to make up their minds. We have to solve this as companies.”
Among those second order problems is the impact of electrification on labor and supply. An EV requires between 20 and 30 percent less labor than a traditional ICE-powered vehicle, Farley said.
“We can’t just walk away from that,” he said.
The global microchip shortage, now projected to cost the industry $210 billion in losses, laid bare the industry’s reliance on imported parts. Farley said the problem is only going to get worse with the ramp up of EVs, whose primary components are batteries and silicon.
The solution, he said, is government-backed investment in microchip plants in the U.S. and domestic sourcing of lithium and cobalt for batteries – the heart of the next generation vehicle.
“So, are we going to import the lithium and cobalt from, you know, nation states that have child labor and all sort of corruption, or are we going to start to get serious about mining in North America,” Farley said. “We have to solve these things, and we don’t have much time.”
All the issues tie back to the future of EVs and when they will take over the industry. For most consumers, EVs are too expensive, and that will continue to slow the transformation of the industry, Farley said.
“I am deeply worried about the affordability of this move,” he said. “That’s the one that keeps me up at night.”