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Ford Testing On-Demand Autonomous Delivery with Postmates in Florida

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【Summary】Ford is working with Postmates, an on-demand delivery platform, to operate a self-driving delivery service in Florida. Ford announced it’s testing autonomous delivery vans to gauge how customer react and interact with the self-driving Ford Connect vans.

Eric Walz    Jun 11, 2018 3:10 PM PT
Ford Testing On-Demand Autonomous Delivery with Postmates in Florida
author: Eric Walz   

Ford is working with Postmates, an on-demand delivery platform, to operate a self-driving delivery service in Florida. Ford announced it's testing autonomous delivery vans to gauge how customer react and interact with the self-driving Ford Connect vans. However there is a catch, the vans are not really self-driving yet.

The research vehicles for Ford's pilot are designed to appear as self-driving, but they are manually driven by an experienced driver. The focus of Ford's research is on the first and last mile of the delivery experience. The automaker is developing its self-driving technology in separate test vehicles.

The pilot with Ford and Postmates pilot is underway in Miami and Miami Beach with more than 70 businesses participating. During the pilot, local residents that order food  using Postmates may be offered the option to have their items delivered by a Ford self-driving research vehicle. In addition to Miami, Postmates operates in over twenty major cities across the U.S.

The Ford Transit Connects vans are equipped with a locker system for each customer's order. Once the van arrives at the delivery location, a customer unlocks the secure compartment using a smartphone app to receive their order. This locker setup allows the autonomous van to serve multiple customers along each delivery route.

To accommodate many different packages and sizes, the rear and passenger-side lockers are different sizes to allowing Ford to test optimal vehicle configurations for the vans. More importantly, Ford is testing testing how businesses and the public interact with a self-driving vehicle.

After the restaurant employee types his access code into the screen, one of the lockers will automatically open so that he can place the food inside. Each locker has two cup holders to hold beverages during transit. When the vehicle arrives at its destination, the customer receives a text notification indicating the delivery is ready for pickup.

Upon meeting the vehicle at the curb, consumers enter an access code into the touch screen and the appropriate locker will open. Audio prompts direct the interaction and lights will illuminate the designated locker. Ford is making interactions with the vehicle as easy as possible through various sensory technologies built into the Transit Connect van.

This is Ford's first self-driving research vehicle modified specifically to test a variety of customer interfaces, including the  the touch screen, the locker system and external audio system that will be part of the self-driving vehicle scheduled to arrive in 2021.

In addition to the pilot with Postmates, Ford announced in March that it's working with pizza chain Dominos to test a self-driving pizza delivery service in Miami using Ford's Fusion sedan.

The pizza delivery is another part of the autonomous delivery services Ford hopes to roll out by 2021, as it looks to expand its mobility services.

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