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Ford to Launch a Self-Driving Business Pilot in Washington DC

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【Summary】The Ford Motor Company is becoming the first automaker to bring self-driving cars to the nation’s capital. The automaker announced it is expanding it autonomous business development to Washington DC.

Eric Walz    Oct 22, 2018 4:17 PM PT
Ford to Launch a Self-Driving Business Pilot in Washington DC
author: Eric Walz   

The Ford Motor Company is becoming the first automaker to bring self-driving cars to the nation's capital. The automaker announced it is expanding it autonomous business development to Washington DC. Ford says it's self-driving car business services will be responsive to the needs of the city and local residents.

Ford is already testing its driverless cars in Detroit, Pittsburgh and Miami. In Miami, Ford is testing how people will interact with a self-driving vehicle in a pilot program with pizza chain Domino's that includes pizza delivery using autonomous driving vehicle. In addition, Ford is using a fleet of autonomous delivery vans in a partnership with ride-hailing company Lyft and courier company Postmates.

Both Ford and Washington DC officials are committed to exploring how self-driving vehicles can be deployed in an equitable way across the various neighborhoods of Washington in a way that promotes job creation.

Self-driving vehicles offer a chance to make it more affordable and easier for people to get to jobs, by filling gaps in access to public transportation, along with new ways to deliver food and other products.

Ford said that widespread access to mobility services enabled by self-driving vehicles is vital to service people and communities, a sentiment that was underscored in a report by Securing America's Future Energy, which found that autonomous technology could improve people's access to jobs as well as retail markets.

For announced it will be working with local officials in Washington, D.C., to ensure that it tests self-driving vehicles in all eight of the District's wards, as the automkers works towards the deployment of a commercial service in 2021 using a fleet of self-driving vehicles.

Ford is working with Pittsburgh-based autonomous driving company Argo AI, a startup which received a $1 billion investment from Ford in 2017. Argo AI is leading the development of Ford's self-driving systems and already has vehicles on District streets. The fleet is currently mapping Washington DC streets—creating HD maps as the first step toward testing on public streets in autonomous mode.

Over the next year, the fleet will grow as Ford and Argo AI expand its testing areas, including within the city's downtown core.

Ford-Self-Driving-Delivery-Postmates-0008.jpg

A self-driving Ford delivery van in Miami, Florida

The automaker is collaborating with the DC Infrastructure Academy in Ward 8, a workforce training center launched by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser that prepares residents for a number of jobs. The program will be used to train a roster of vehicle operators, who will be responsible for safely operating and monitoring Ford's fleet of test vehicles on public roads.

In addition, Ford plans to train local residents for auto technician careers that could involve self-driving vehicles in the future. This training will be through courses developed by Excel Automotive in Ward 7 and Ford's Automotive Career Exploration program.

To help manage its fleet, Ford established an autonomous vehicle operations terminal in the District's Ward 5. This terminal will house Ford's fleet of autonomous vehicles where employees clean vehicles and conduct routine maintenance.

Washington DC is part of the Bloomberg Aspen Initiative on Cities and Autonomous Vehicles, is the first city to conduct pilots with food delivery bots, and its long-term planning calls for the District to become a test bed for self-driving vehicles and connected technology.

The District is also one of the largest markets in the United States with millions of visitors every year, major conferences, a popular food scene, and high demand for ride-hailing and delivery services.

Ford's pilot in Washington DC is an opportunity for the company to understand how a comprehensive, commercial self-driving business could be utilized in the future.

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