Ford hasn't been making the bold strides of some competitors when it comes to autonomous vehicles, with plenty of testing already underway from various companies, including public trials from Nissan, Uber, Google's Waymo and Tesla's progress with its Autopilot software. The automotive giant is now looking to make some serious headway in Miami, where it is kicking off a pilot exploring how self-driving vehicles can ease the city's notorious traffic problems.
Though Ford hasn't let its driverless vehicles loose in the way some others have, that certainly doesn't mean it has been neglecting our fast-approaching autonomous future. Last year, it elevated the guy running its autonomous car program to global CEO, hid human drivers inside car seats to gauge public reaction to driverless cars and teamed up with Domino's to figure out automated pizza delivery.
The new testing in Miami is in one way an extension of that. A pilot with Domino's is already underway in the city, and in March it will kick off another with logistics company Postmates, with others to follow thereafter. Through these pilots, Ford is looking to investigate things like how employees stock up a self-driving delivery vehicle before sending them on their way and how customers interact with it at the other end.
For example, can vehicles that don't need to be double-parked as the delivery person delivers the goods to the door prevent hold-ups in traffic? What Ford learns from these tests it will then look to apply to a purpose-built self-driving vehicle slated for launch in 2021.
While these self-driving couriers go about their business, a new fleet of Ford's Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicles will also be roaming Miami's streets. These will operate out of a new autonomous vehicle terminal that Ford has built near downtown, which will be used to manage the fleet, troubleshoot problems and make sure the cars are kept in working order.
These cars will be used to map the roads and gather data that improves their navigation capabilities, understanding of local traffic laws and the habits of human drivers in Miami. With all things going well in the "Magic City," Ford then hopes to wind up with a blueprint for a self-driving vehicle service that it can then deploy in other cities.
You can check out the promo video below.
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