Ford to test self-driving vehicle delivery service in Miami
Ford Motor Co. is rolling out self-driving vehicles in Miami to deliver pizza and other goods, though they’ll be operated by humans as part of a trial aimed at learning how customers use the services.
The automaker on Tuesday said the pilot programs, operated in collaboration with Postmates and Domino's, will help it design the Level 4 autonomous vehicle that it plans to bring to market by the thousands in 2021.
In addition to the delivery services, which will involve fewer than a dozen vehicles to begin, Ford said it also will set up an "autonomous vehicle operations terminal" near downtown Miami to house and maintain the fleet. It plans to find ways that local dealers can contribute.
"After working out numerous muscles and developing different techniques to navigate a future of self-driving cars, we're heading onto the stage in Miami-Dade to see how our business performs," Sherif Marakby, Ford's vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification, said in a blog post. "By bringing all of our different development tracks together to test in unison, we're putting ourselves in the best position to analyze our execution, determine what works well and improve what doesn't."
Marakby said the automaker already has begun delivering pizzas in Miami through Domino's, and next month plans to launch its collaboration with Postmates, which allows users to order a wide variety of items. Postmates' partners in Miami include 7-Eleven, Walgreens, Subway and numerous local restaurants, according to its website.
The vehicles will include a mix of Fusion sedans, vans and SUVs, Marakby said. They will all be operated by a human driver, but the drivers will not interact with customers.
"What we learn from this customer experience research will be applied to the design of our purpose-built self-driving vehicle that we plan to launch in 2021 to support the expansion of our service," Marakby wrote.
Simultaneous to the delivery pilots, Ford will deploy a fleet of driverless Fusions in partnership with Argo AI to map the city and test driverless technology. Argo and Ford have previously tested in Pittsburgh and Dearborn.
Marakby said Ford chose Miami because of its need to reduce congestion. A recent study listed it as the 10th most congested city in the world and the fifth most congested city in the U.S. Miami commuters spend an average of 64 hours in traffic backups per year during peak time periods, Ford said.
Ford developed a relationship with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Giménez through its city solutions team, Marakby said, and has been working with the city for the past few months.
“What became clear is they view autonomous vehicles in a very similar way that we do – it’s part of a solution for transportation in the city,” Marakby told Automotive News.
The automaker will be looking at how customers interact with the vehicles and how workers stock them with goods.
Marakby said Ford plans to test its self-driving business in another city by the end of the year.
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