In studying the airlines, Ford may have established some parameters for how it intends to operate. In piloting delivery services in Washington and Miami, it has, in some cases, learned how it will not operate.
Ford has sought collaborations with local businesses in both markets and examined automated delivery services for businesses such as florists and dry cleaners. Food delivery remains a viable revenue stream overall, but Marakby says the company has "chopped out things within that category."
"The biggest learnings, to me, are the things we are not going to do," he said. "I can't talk about them in detail, but we are deciding not to be in certain delivery businesses because the opt-in rate is so low," he said. "Some things, they sound good on paper, but then in reality it doesn't make any sense because people don't want the service."
Part of that obstacle includes offering delivery services to customers' doors rather than merely to the curb. In Miami, for example, Ford quickly learned residents of high-rises balked at meeting delivery vehicles at the sidewalk when they're accustomed to getting food delivered to their door. Navigating the space from the curb to the doorstep is one reason why Ford entered a partnership with Agility Robotics last month that will use Digit, a bipedal robot that can carry packages.
Overall, melding the technology and business operations takes time.
"We've been figuring out the sweet spot for two years, and it's not enough," Marakby said. "We have so much more work to do. When others say 'We'll have autonomous vehicles, and it will be easy,' I don't know why it would be easy. It hasn't been easy. We have to do this work. We are learning and adjusting our plans."