Ford announced today that it’s going to start testing its autonomous cars in the Miami area very soon. The first step in the plan is to roll out a delivery service using Ford’s autonomous cars. The first two partners for that delivery service are Domino’s Pizza and Postmates, the automaker revealed today.
Ford management made the announcement in a detailed post on Medium, explaining why they selected the Miami-Dade County area as the pilot market for their autonomous delivery service. Clearly, the city is in drastic need of innovation in the area of transportation, as the Inrix Global Traffic Scorecard named it the world’s tenth most congested city and the fifth most congested U.S. city. Commuters in Miami spend 64 hours sitting in traffic each year during peak times, on average, which means that almost 10% of the time they’re driving, they’re stuck in traffic.
Ford’s plan to roll out its autonomous cars in Miami begins with a delivery service for Domino’s and Postmates. The automaker will use the service to conduct research on customer experiences and then apply what it learns to the autonomous cars it plans to release in 2021 to expand its service. The company explained what it will be looking for as deliveries are made using its autonomous cars, like how employees will stock a self-driven car and then send it off to make a delivery.
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Ford is also considering what will happen on the other end of the deliveries when the autonomous cars arrive at their destinations. For example, how will customers get the items they ordered and how far away are they willing to walk to retrieve their items from a self-driven car?
The company also outlined the benefits it expects from its autonomous cars and delivery service. Customers obviously won’t tip an autonomous car, and it’s hoped that the cars won’t park illegally like human drivers might if they can’t find a parking space when they need to make a delivery. Apparently, Ford’s autonomous cars are already delivering pizzas for Domino’s in the Miami area.
The automaker also plans to expand its Argo AI partnership. Argo already has a new fleet mapping the Miami streets to help Ford’s autonomous cars “learn” what it’s like to drive in the area. The company is also setting up its first terminal for autonomous cars in the downtown Miami area. The test fleet will be housed, cleaned and maintained there.
It will be interesting to see how this autonomous driving program goes. A major question that obviously needs to be answered here deals with how customers will respond to goods being delivered to them by a car without a driver. What happens if the car has to stop suddenly and the pizza spills everywhere? That’s not going to be a pleasant experience for the customer.
Sadly, it sounds like yet another way people interact with each other is being eliminated. Social media eliminated the “need” to see others face to face socially, and soon, we won’t even need to interact with delivery people either. It also means that even more jobs will be eliminated by technology, as virtually tech firm is taking part in the gold rush for autonomous cars right now.