Ford is already trialing self-driving Domino's Pizza delivery cars in certain parts of the city.
Ford's self-driving car testing program has taken a step forward, as the Blue Oval automaker is currently trailing a new autonomous service in Florida after years of testing and development. The trial will see a fleet of self-driving Ford Fusions unleashed onto the streets in sunny Miami to help Ford understand how people will interact with autonomous vehicles. Its self-driving Domino's Pizza delivery service pilot is already underway in parts of the city, and the automaker is finalizing another trial with the Postmates food delivery service to launch in March.
As part of the pilot program, Ford aims to gain a better understanding about the potential issues self-driving delivery services could pose, such as how employees will stock the vehicle before a delivery. Ford also wants to understand how customers interact with the vehicle to retrieve their food delivery, how far they are willing to walk to an autonomous car to pick up their delivery, and the benefits of having a self-driving experience. The automaker says the information it gathers from the pilots will be applied to the design of a purpose-built self-driving car it plans to launch in 2021 to expand its autonomous-delivery service.
Supporting the service is Ford's first "autonomous vehicle operations terminal" in Miami. Situated close to the downtown area, it serves as the base of operations and houses the automaker's autonomous test fleet. This is also where test vehicles will be washed, have their sensors cleaned, and receive routine maintenance to troubleshoot any problems that arise. Ford will also be working closely with local dealers in the area to determine ways to integrate their operations and capabilities into the terminal. "A healthy dealer network is critical for support, as dealers can help with repairs and conduct parts deliveries and other services," Ford Vice President Sherif Marakby wrote on Medium.
"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." Ford believes Miami is an ideal proving ground for the autonomous delivery service, as the city was recently rated as the tenth most congested city in the world and the fifth most congested in the US, with commuters spending an average of 64 hours in congestion every year.