Ford’s autonomous test vehicles are rolling into Miami, which will serve as the “first proving ground” for its self-driving business.
As part of the effort, Ford is now piloting an autonomous delivery service in Miami with Domino’s, a trial that will run throughout the year. That’s right, Miami residents: In the near future, your Domino’s pizza could be delivered in a self-driving test car. In March, Ford plans to launch a similar pilot with the courier service Postmates.
When making deliveries, “a self-driving vehicle won’t need to be tipped and it won’t park illegally,” Ford Vice President of Autonomous Vehicles and Electrification Sherif Marakby wrote in a blog post. At the same time, a vehicle won’t be able to carry that pizza right to your doorstep, he pointed out.
“We understand there are both hurdles and benefits to self-driving delivery in cities and we intend to learn all of these ins and outs so that we can serve people in a way that’s most intuitive and convenient,” he wrote. The company will leverage this research when designing the self-driving vehicle it intends to start mass producing in 2021 for an autonomous ride-hailing service.
Ford is also working with Pittsburgh-based artificial intelligence company Argo AI, which secured a major Ford investment last year, to continue developing the self-driving technology powering its autonomous vehicles. The companies have already deployed a fleet of Argo AI-powered Ford vehicles in Miami to map the streets and better understand peoples’ driving habits.
To round out its efforts, Ford is establishing a new autonomous vehicle operations terminal in Miami, where it will house, clean, and maintain its fleet.
“Before thousands of self-driving vehicles can hit the streets, we have to be prepared to manage large, high-tech fleets efficiently, and the steps we’re taking in Miami represent a significant stride in that process,” Marakby wrote.
Ford has the support of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Giménez, who is a “champion of innovative technology and applying it to help improve life for residents of the county,” Marakby wrote. Miami was recently named the tenth most congested city in the world, and the fifth most congested city in the US by analytics company Inrix, indicating “there’s clearly a need for innovation,” he added.
“Miami commuters spend an average of 64 hours in congestion per year during peak time periods,” Marakby wrote. “That’s just not right…so we’re setting out to solve for their pain points.”