Self-driving Vehicles: Closer Than You Might Think

Miami has been Ford’s testing ground for their self-driving vehicles since the start of this year. More recently, the auto company joined forces with Postmates to study how those ordering takeout food would interact with driverless delivery vans.

The process is more in-depth than it may sound. In our current world, you exchange money for food with the human at your door. But how might this work with a self-driving world without human deliveries? The answer Ford came up with was simple but effective. Tiny lockers and access codes.

Ford has added touchpad-accessible lockers to its armada of Transit vans. From there, Postmates customers with their access code can get their food order. There are lockers of various sizes for a variety of deliveries, some of them including cup holders! Both audio and light prompts are used to alert the customer to the correct locker.

With the pilot underway in both Miami and Miami Beach, more than 70 businesses are participating. This list includes even restaurants and hardware stores. For now, the vans are still driven by humans. Ford is taking this time to test the various methods of food delivery. However, Ford soon plans to deploy fully automatic delivery service by the year 2021.

Other Companies Are Placing Bets in the Future of Self-driving Vehicles

In a previous partnership with Domino’s Pizza, Ford had deployed their faux self-driving vehicles for a limited time trial in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ford is currently testing actual autonomous cars in Miami. While driving around in their automatic mode, these vehicles are creating high-def mapping data. Now, humans are still behind the wheel just in case of emergency, but otherwise are merely a passenger in the car. Ford, however, is in the process of making an AV sans standard control such as pedals and steering wheels.

Miami is also a test bed for Ford’s new Transportation Mobility Cloud. Those companies which announced their partnerships with Ford such as Lyft and Postmates can soon offer ride-hailing trips and deliveries using Ford’s self-driving cars.

Not long ago, Waymo declared it would acquire 62,000 self-driven minivans from Fiat Chrysler. Meanwhile, a SoftBank fund plans to invest $2.25 billion into GM’s self-driving unit Cruise.

Rivals in the world of self-driving are making power moves while Ford looks as though it’s playing the long game. Ford is focusing on small experiments while avoiding major deal announcements.

Back in May, Ford shocked the automotive world when it stated its intent to abandon all traditional sedans and hatchbacks for their North American market. In their place, Ford said it would double down on its two main areas of focus: its line of trucks and SUVs as well as a substantial investment in more mobility solutions like smart cities and connected cars. In about a week, the world is waiting for Ford’s announcement on its historic Michigan Central Station plans in Detroit. June 19th marks the start of a new era for mobility and innovation.