Ford has three years left to hit its 2021 goal for a nationwide self-driving fleet of taxis and delivery vehicles in the US.
Today, the car company announced that its self-driving cars are currently cruising on the streets of Miami, mapping their surroundings and assisting in pizza deliveries. One city down; a lot more to go.
Miami’s mayor has given Ford the green light to turn Miami and Miami Beach into a testing playground for Ford’s self-driving cars to learn the rules of the road. A blog post penned by Ford’s VP of Autonomous Vehicles, Sherif Marakby, reveals that Ford’s “fleet of Argo vehicles” have already been operating there for some time.
Argo, a startup purchased by Ford last year, develops car AI tech and was founded by former Google and Uber engineers and roboticists. Argo’s AI is in full control of these cars, but for now, drivers are staying behind the wheel, for safety reasons.
At night, the cars drive just outside of Miami to Ford’s first “autonomous vehicle operations terminal” for repairs and service. There’s no word on how many cars are out there now, but they hope to eventually have “thousands” in the Miami area alone.
Ford is also lending its Argo tech and cars out to commercial partners like Domino’s and Postmates to study how Miami's citizens will react to autonomous deliveries. Last year, Domino’s used self-driving cars to deliver pizzas to Ann Arbor’s hungriest college students; now, it's bringing that same service to Miami.
Willing Miami participants in this beta program will be able to track the car’s progress via GPS. Once the car arrives, they'll go out to the car and enter a PIN to pull their pizza out of a heated compartment.
For now, Domino’s is using a regular Ford Fusion Hybrid disguised as a self-driving car for these deliveries. Behind tinted windows, the driver will observe customers and see how they react to a human-free delivery experience. Eventually, Domino’s hopes to use actual self-driving cars that, as Marakby says, “won’t need to be tipped and won’t park illegally”.
At CES 2018, we heard about Ford’s plans to develop a “transportation mobility cloud” where self-driving cars would generate real-time city data and serve a variety of business needs. Now, The Verge reports that Ford is using Miami to launch that service.
As Ford envisions the service, its self-driving cars will monitor traffic in real time through cameras, sending data that other cars in Ford’s network, autonomous or otherwise, can use to speed up delivery times. Lyft, one of Ford’s partners, is one company that may employ this info cloud for its own self-driving fleet.