Ford Takes New Autonomous Fleets and Operating System to Miami

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
ford takes new autonomous fleets and operating system to miami

It has begun. Ford is finally ready to launch another batch of its faux-autonomous Domino’s pizza delivery vehicles to assess how people will interact with a self-driving vehicle. False autonomy has become a bit of a gimmick with Ford, but a necessary one. Last year, it disguised a man as a seat to assess how people would respond to a vehicle that only communicated using lights. Now it’s running with a similar strategy in a deal with the famous pizza chain, adding Postmates for good measure.

While the information gleaned from the endeavor is less important, the fact that Ford is already actively working with business partners on autonomous applications is what really matters. It’s laying the groundwork for future business opportunities.

However, if you’re worried that Ford’s pretend self-driving vehicles are a sign that it’s losing the race toward the self-driving car, don’t. In addition to the Domino’s car, the automaker is also launching blue-and-white research vehicles equipped with new self-driving hardware and software technology from Argo AI.

Ford said all the vehicles are bound for Miami, without specifying how many are in the fleet. At present, the pizza delivery vehicles seem to have the majority of their strength amassed in Ann Arbor. Florida is just another market for Ford and Domino’s to test in, with Postmates getting its shot sometime in March using different vehicles.

Sherif Marakby, Ford’s vice president for autonomous vehicles and electrification, wrote in a blog post that the Argo cars are already on the streets of Miami, mapping the area and learning how to cope with navigating an urban environment. Marakby also mentioned the importance of developing a support network for autonomous fleets, something other automakers frequently gloss over.

Until the technology is pitch perfect, no company will possess a fleet that doesn’t require meticulous maintenance and relentless sensor cleaning. It’s nice to see Ford acknowledging the issue. Marakby said a big part of the Miami fleet will be the fine-turning of vehicle management processes and finding out the best way to handle a smaller fleet before scaling up.

Miami will also serve as the initial staging area for Ford’s Transportation Mobility Cloud, an open-sourced platform for cities and other partners to use for “vehicle-to-everything” communications. Ford wants to develop an in-car operating system that allows vehicles to communicate with everything from traffic lights to smartphones. The hope here is to create a fool-proof system for automated driving and potentially corner a market that may be essential for self-driving vehicles. Marakby said companies that already have partnerships with Ford, like Lyft and Postmates, will also be able to use the platform to provide ride-hailing trips and deliveries using Ford’s self-driving cars.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

Consumer advocate tracking industry trends, regulation, and the bitter-sweet nature of modern automotive tech. Research focused and gut driven.

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2 of 6 comments
  • Tele Vision Tele Vision on Feb 27, 2018

    The packed snow on our street is 4" higher than the sidewalk - which is itself covered in ice from the melting/freezing snowpack. I'd LOVE to see my pothead neighbours ( really nice people, in truth ) get a pizza delivered by an 'autonomous' car.

  • Thornmark Thornmark on Feb 28, 2018

    Nissan better watch out, if it loses the fleet business its market share goes back to 5%.

  • ToolGuy "Mr. President, no government agency, no think tank, and no polling firm knows more about the automobile customer than us. We talk to customers every day. As retail automotive dealerships, we are agnostic as to what we sell. Our business is to provide customers with vehicles that meet the needs of their budgets and lifestyles.”• How many lies can you fit into one paragraph?
  • Spamvw Three on the tree, even Generation X would have a hard time stealing one of those.
  • ToolGuy This trend of cyan wheels needs to end NOW.
  • Kwik_Shift Interesting nugget(s) of EV follies.
  • SaulTigh I've said it before and I'll say it again...if you really cared about the environment you'd be encouraging everyone to drive a standard hybrid. Mature and reliable technology that uses less resources yet can still be conveniently driven cross country and use existing infrastructure.These young people have no concept of how far we've come. Cars were dirty, stinking things when I was a kid. They've never been cleaner. You hardly ever see a car smoking out the tail pipe or smell it running rich these days, even the most clapped out 20 year old POS. Hybrids are even cleaner.