Ford Motor Co. is rolling out self-driving vehicles in Miami to deliver pizza and other goods.
The automaker on Tuesday said the pilot programs, operated in collaboration with Postmates and Domino's, will help it learn what customers will need by the time it brings a Level 4 autonomous vehicle to market in 2021.
In addition to the delivery services, which will involve fewer than a dozen vehicles to begin, Ford said it also will set up an "autonomous vehicle operations terminal" near downtown Miami to house and maintain the fleet. It plans to find ways that local dealers can contribute.
"After working out numerous muscles and developing different techniques to navigate a future of self-driving cars, we're heading onto the stage in Miami-Dade to see how our business performs," Sherif Marakby, Ford's VP of autonomous vehicles and electrification, said in a blog post. "By bringing all of our different development tracks together to test in unison, we're putting ourselves in the best position to analyze our execution, determine what works well and improve what doesn't."
Marakby said the automaker already has begun delivering pizzas in Miami through Domino's, and next month plans to launch its collaboration with Postmates, which allows users to order a wide variety of items. Postmates' partners in Miami include 7-Eleven, Walgreens, Subway and numerous local restaurants, according to its website.
"What we learn from this customer experience research will be applied to the design of our purpose-built self-driving vehicle that we plan to launch in 2021 to support the expansion of our service," Marakby wrote.
Marakby said Ford chose Miami because of its need to reduce congestion. A recent study listed it as the 10th most congested city in the world and the fifth most congested city in the U.S. Miami commuters spend an average of 64 hours in traffic backups per year during peak time periods, Ford said.
The automaker will be looking at how customers interact with the vehicles and how workers stock them with goods.
Ford announced its partnership with Postmates earlier this year. It has been working with Domino's since last year through a small pilot program near the chain's headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Michael Martinez is a reporter for Automotive News.