By 2021, Ford hopes to have a self-driving vehicle with "no gas pedal" and "no steering wheel," with no need for the passenger to take control "in a predefined area," Fields told CNBC "Squawk on the Street" on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show.
"In our industry, the word autonomous is being used very, very liberally. There's different levels of autonomy," Fields contended. "The question that should be asked when a company says they're going to have an autonomous vehicle ... is at what level."
The levels — defined by automotive and aerospace engineer association SAE International — gauge the capabilities of self-driving vehicles, go from zero, or no automation, to five, or full automation.
"In our case, we said a Level Four vehicle in 2021," explained Fields in a wide-ranging interview, during which he also told CNBC that President-elect Donald Trump's proposed tax or trade reforms would not influence Ford's long-term goals.
SAE characterizes a Level Four self-driving vehicle as one that uses an automated system for "all aspects of the dynamic driving task, even if a human driver does not respond appropriately to a request to intervene."