Ford is headed to Florida to test and prove out their self-driving car business model. With the help of Miami-Dade County, we’re taking our service directly to the streets of Miami and Miami Beach.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Giménez is a champion of innovative technology and applying it to help improve life for residents of the county. He’s on the forefront of thinking about the future of transportation, leading a county that already offers a diverse set of transportation modes ranging from ride-hailing services and rail to buses and bike sharing. He understands the potential of self-driving vehicles and how they can fit in, interact with, and enhance all of those modes and more. That’s why this collaboration makes so much sense.
To understand what Miami-Dade residents would experience with self-driving vehicle service, the first part of our presence will involve pilot programs throughout the year with our partners, starting with Domino’s and Postmates. 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.
The types of questions we’re trying to answer include:
* Before a self-driving vehicle makes a delivery, how will employees stock it and send it off?
* At the end of its journey, how will customers interact with the vehicle to retrieve their food or groceries, and how far from their homes are they willing to walk to get it?
* What benefits could and should people get from a self-driving experience?
Another way to think about it is to consider the costs of convenience. Today, deliveries can be made to someone’s door, though there is usually an extra charge involved. Oftentimes, drivers illegally double-park when they can’t find a space, potentially causing traffic congestion for others. A self-driving vehicle won’t need to be tipped and it won’t park illegally. So, from the outset 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. Our Domino’s pilot is already up and running in Miami, and we’re finalizing plans to launch one with Postmates in March.
Ford is establishing their first autonomous vehicle operations terminal in Miami. Situated close to Miami downtown, it will be the base from which we’ll develop our vehicle management processes and house our test fleet. The vehicles will be washed and have their sensors cleaned here; routine maintenance will be conducted, including troubleshooting problems that arise and more.
Additionally, we will work closely with our extensive dealer network in the area, looking for ways to integrate and incorporate their operations and capabilities into their terminal. A healthy dealer network is critical for support, as dealers can help with repairs and conduct parts deliveries and other services. 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.
After working out numerous muscles and developing different techniques to navigate a future of self-driving cars, we’re heading onto the stage in Miami-Dade to see how our business performs. By bringing all of our different development tracks together to test in unison, we’re putting ourselves in the best position to analyze our execution, determine what works well and improve what doesn’t. This way, we can quickly expand our service and take it to other cities when the time comes.