Ford is bringing its fleet of driverless cars to the streets dotted with neon Miami to test future business plans for robot cars, which include deliveries and deliveries on board, the automaker announced today.
With an organ pipe-style sensor suit on the roof and the Spanish word for "investigation" stamped under the grille, Ford says his driverless cars bring the promise of safer streets and more efficient deliveries, and probably more than a few few fenders benders. The cars arrived last week, and the tests are already underway.
Initially, Ford will test two types of autonomous cars in Miami: the aforementioned blue and white research vehicles with hardware and software technology from Argo, a stand-alone startup backed by Ford; and self-directed delivery cars that Ford last deployed in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in partnership with Domino & # 39; s Pizza. Ford said he hoped to eventually have "thousands" of driverless cars deployed in the city.
the company will not say exactly how many have wandered the streets of North Beach
But, for now, the company will not say exactly how many have wandered the streets of North Beach and the surrounding communities. Argo research cars currently drive throughout the city in autonomous mode while collecting high-definition map data. Meanwhile, the Domino car (there is only one at this time) is being operated by a human driver while the company studies how customers interact with a self-delivery vehicle. The safety drivers will remain behind the wheel of all of Ford's autonomous vehicles for the time being, although the company is currently building an AV without traditional controls such as pedals and steering wheels, which it plans to launch by 2021.
Ford has also built a service center for its autonomous vehicles near downtown Miami. The new terminal will serve as a base of operations for Ford cars when they are not on the street and where they can transfer data and clean and calibrate their sensors.
Miami will also serve as a test bed for Ford's upcoming Transportation Mobility Cloud, an open source platform for cities and other transportation partners announced at CES last month. Companies that have announced partnerships with Ford, such as Lyft and Postmates, will soon be able to offer trips and deliveries with cars driven by Ford, said Sherif Marakby, vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification at Ford.
"We are really excited that we are already doing it," Marakby said in a call with reporters. "We are not announcing that we are going to the first city, we are announcing that we are in the first city, we have a deposit, we are mapping the city, and we are operating a business, so we are very excited, and we believe it is necessary that all these elements join and start parallel development is absolutely right, and we believe that Ford differentiates from others. "
The automaker has fallen behind a bit in the race to develop cars without a driver, not necessarily because of lack of effort, but because its competitors have moved much more aggressively in the last year. Waymo, the stand-alone Google Parent unit, is preparing to launch a driverless transport service in Phoenix, while GM Cruise has said it will launch its own robotic taxi service in San Francisco. Uber has driverless cars that pick up passengers in Pittsburgh and Phoenix, and Lyft partnered with NuTonomy to launch a small pilot in Boston.
Last year was challenging for the Blue Oval, with stagnant sales numbers and awkwardly scheduled management changes. Jim Hackett replaced Mark Fields as CEO right after Ford announced a $ 1 billion investment in Argo. And last week, Ford president Raj Nair resigned after admitting "inappropriate behavior."
Last year was challenging for the Blue Oval
Ford has doubled its investments in mobility, acquiring a handful of transportation software providers and launching its own Google X style incubator for its research and development projects. At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Ford said it would more than double its investment in the production of electric vehicles, promising to spend $ 11 billion on technology by 2022.
Miami presents a challenging environment for Ford vehicles that drive themselves. The city was recently ranked as the tenth most congested in the world, and the fifth most congested in the United States, according to INRIX's global traffic score card. Miami drivers spend an average of 64 hours in congestion per year during the peak travel time, or nearly 10 percent of their total driving time.
Of course, vehicles without a driver are not a panacea for the headaches caused by traffic. With an excessively prudent operation, autonomous cars often get into the fenders with human-powered vehicles. And it has been proven that attraction services such as Uber and Lyft congest cities, taking passengers from buses, the subway, bicycles and their own feet and placing them in cars. The cars that drive on their own must reach a level of ubiquity and operational efficiency, for example, the "platoon", before they can begin to have some kind of effect on the traffic problems of a city.
Ford and Miami-Dade County have begun "friendly," Marakby said, and the company has a "strong partnership" with the county mayor, Carlos Giménez. "I'm excited to work with Ford," Giménez said in a statement. "We first met with the company over a year ago and discussed the possibility of mapping our community as we prepare for the arrival of autonomous vehicles, I am a strong advocate of this emerging technology and I know that Miami-Dade will continue to be vanguard of technological advances that will improve mobility. "
In fact, Miami has been courting the automakers that drive themselves for months. City officials tried to lure Uber last year, with no results, according to the Miami Herald. Last year, one of the newspaper columnists defended the convenience of taking cars without a driver to Miami:
Miami is desperate for driverless cars because it is home to some of the worst human drivers in the world. We are overloaded with tourists, people who drive according to the customs of their countries of origin and elderly drivers. Lack of familiarity with our roads and laws exacerbates the hostility already augmented by heat and humidity, which is cruelly complicated by endless construction projects and horrible urban planning. The only good thing about being stuck in your car on I-95 or Brickell Avenue is that no one can hear you scream.
Have your prayers been answered? Will Ford's autonomous vehicles bring the relief that so many Miami residents urgently need? Most would prefer a piña colada by the pool, but driverless cars are welcome to give it a try.