After announcing plans to accelerate electric vehicles production by 2022, Ford released its preliminary plans for a new autonomous fleet. The global car maker chose Florida’s Miami as a suitable location for a development hub. In addition to building a logistics terminal, Ford will also manufacture fully autonomous vehicles, used for robotaxi fleets and deliveries, by 2021.
Ford’s vice-president, Sherif Marakby, responsible for automation and electrification, stated that the company’s persistent effort in developing technology, studying customer behaviors, serving large fleets and working with government will be materialized in an actual business.
“We’ve spent years researching and developing self-driving technology, studying changing customer behaviors, serving some of the largest fleets in the country with help from our dealers, and working with governments big and small. Now it’s time to pull it all together head for the finish line! So now, we’re headed to Florida to test and prove out our business model. With the help of Miami-Dade County, we’re taking our service directly to the streets of Miami and Miami Beach.”
Ford had been considering numerous US cities for testing its new services and developing the autonomous technology. The company selected Miami for its pilot program, due to the combination of driving challenges and good weather. Miami has a dense urban environment with suburban spaces, being “the tenth most congested city in the world and the fifth most congested city in the US”. The weather is also predictable and suitable for the purposes of AV and EV testing.
Besides the urban density and good climate, Miami’s autonomous legislation is additionally favorable for the development of autonomous technology. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Giménez is promoting innovative technology and applying it to help improve the lives of its residents, while at the forefront of thinking about the future of transportation.
Ford’s new, fully autonomous vehicle will be released in three years and will be used to deliver goods for partners, such as Domino’s and Postmates, without steering wheels or other controls. The company will use ArgoAI for the technology, having already invested $ 1 billion in the startup last year. Even before finalizing the cars, Ford will start working on logistics and business models, creating a centralized autonomous hub.
It will be situated close to downtown and form a base from which Ford will develop its vehicle management processes, as well as store its test fleet. The vehicles will be washed and have their sensors cleaned, including routine maintenance, such as troubleshooting problems.
Ford will expand its partnerships with Domino’s and delivery service Postmates. They will apply the insights from the customer experience research to the design of a purpose-built self-driving vehicle, to support the scaling of its delivery services. They plan to strike partnerships with additional companies, including local Miami businesses.
“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. We have to map the city and map the area before we can run in autonomous mode. But the business and technology will converge in future.”
Conditional on successful collaboration with reliable partners, Ford will add thousands of new vehicles to its autonomous fleet, by 2021.