The initial wave of self-driving cars from Ford will be limited in range and capability as the 'problem is so complex'.

In a speech to the Detroit Economic Club last week, Jim Hackett, CEO of Ford, has tried to ratchet down expectations for the company's first generation of autonomous vehicles.

"We’ve overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles," Hackett admitted.

Despite this, the company is sticking to its plan to launch its first autonomous vehicles into commercial service in 2021.

However, Hackett says for the first wave of cars the "applications will be narrow, what we call 'geo-fenced', because the problem is so complex".

The company has already signed pilot deals with Dominos for autonomous pizza delivery, and Walmart and Postmates for grocery drop-offs.

Although he has scaled back Ford's ambitions for its first wave of self-driving cars, Hackett remains convinced the future lies in autonomy.

The CEO sees "clearly" that "the logistics systems that are powered today by routes and maps all folds into autonomy", meaning everything from personal and public transport, to logistics and cities "all get redesigned".

Quite when this will happen isn't certain, but Hackett knows he "won’t be in charge of Ford" when it does.

Ford plans on spending US$4 billion ($5.6 billion) on autonomous vehicle development through to 2023.

In 2017, the company spent US$1 billion ($1.4 billion) to obtain a controlling stake in Argo AI, a startup focussed on self-driving vehicle technology.