Ford has announced that their driverless cars will be available for commercial operation by 2021. Partnered with four other tech companies, they are doubling their presence in Silicon Valley.
The vehicle scheduled to hit the market will have no steering wheel, brake pedal or gas pedal. It will be considered a “high automation” vehicle by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) as it will not require a human driver in any capacity. According to this classification system, Ford is hoping to reach the second-highest (Level 4) automation level.
To date, it would be the highest level of automation any auto manufacturer has achieved.
How They’re Getting There
Ford has been testing its vehicle in Mcity, a small urban facility for testing on-road, self-driving vehicles. They have been testing their vehicles in snow, darkness and other hazardous conditions.
In 2015, Ford opened their Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto, CA. Located at Stanford Research Park, it is one of the largest automated vehicle research teams in the area.
Now, they are looking to expand into real-world testing. One of their first stops: Miami.
A Self-Driving Study in Miami
Ford plans to test two types of cars in Miami, FL. The first will be a blue and white research car with technology from Argo, a startup Ford supports. The second will be a self-driving delivery car. The hope is to have thousands of cars on Miami streets.
Currently, the research cars are driving all over the city recording mapping data. The delivery car (there’s only one) is being operated throughout the city with a human driver inside. The goal is to see how consumers interact with the vehicle.
In downtown Miami, Ford built a service center for its vehicles. The terminal will be home base for their cars when they aren’t driving around the city. It’s also where cars can transfer data, get software updates and have sensors calibrated.
Ford plans to test their Transportation Mobility Cloud in Miami. This is an open-source platform where cities and transportation companies can tap into Ford’s fleet of vehicles. Companies like Lyft and Dominoes are two of those partners.
Miami is home to some of the world’s worst drivers. Due to the overwhelming number of tourists, elderly drivers and non-native drivers, there’s a definite issue. With so many unfamiliar with the local roads and endless road construction, there are opportunities for improvement.
Driverless cars might be the answer, and Miami is all for it. The city as been trying to attract companies like Uber to encourage self-driving cars to test in their town.
According to the Miami Herald, driverless cars could help in significant ways:
- No more road rage
- No more tailgaters
- No more distracted drivers
- No wrong way drivers
- No more drunk drivers
Stepping Up Their Game to Catch Up to Competitors
Ford isn’t exactly the first name one thinks about when discussing driverless vehicles. The company seems to have fallen behind on this new technology but looks to be stepping up its game. Waymo, from Alphabet, is ready to launch an autonomous ride-hailing service in Phoenix. GM’s Cruise is launching in San Francisco. Uber’s self-driving cars are already taking passengers in Phoenix and Pittsburgh. Lyft will soon be doing the same in Boston.
Miami seems to be a good fit for Google. It’s been listed as the 10th most congested city worldwide and the fifth most in the US.
According to the county’s mayor Carlos Giménez, “I’m a strong supporter of this emerging technology and know that Miami-Dade will continue to be at the forefront of technological advances that will improve mobility.”
Hopefully Ford’s autonomous cars can even go so far as to improve the safety and driving conditions of Miami residents.