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Ford Collaborates with Postmates to Develop Autonomous Deliveries

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【Summary】Like Ford’s current partnership with Dominos, the collaborative effort will also test self-driving vehicles in live environments.

Michael Cheng    Jan 18, 2018 9:30 AM PT
Ford Collaborates with Postmates to Develop Autonomous Deliveries

Ford is starting 2018 with a bang. The car manufacturer recently announced a timely partnership with Postmates, a San Francisco-based startup that specializes in last-mile delivery services.

Like Ford's current partnership with Dominos, the collaborative effort will also test self-driving vehicles in live environments. However, instead of delivering pizza, the agreement between the two groups focuses on commercial products and packaged goods for its wide network of 250,000 businesses in over 250 cities across the US.

Partnership Details

During CES 2018, the automaker revealed details surrounding its partnership with Postmates. The duo plans to deploy pilot programs in highly populated cities later this year. Furthermore, the groups will test various aspects of driverless deliveries, including customer experience, smartphone-based orders and user interface.

"We're constantly evaluating and piloting new urban transportation models," said Vivek Patel, vice president of business operations at Postmates.

"With this pilot, we're trying to understand what is the right way to design these vehicles for on-demand logistics, how they plug into our network and how are people reacting to them."

For the program, Ford will tap its fleet of plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV). In the future, the company will replace the fleet with all-electric cars. It is important to note, however, that this transition is expected to take place in the coming years; around the same time the automaker's second generation of self-driving cars will be available to consumers.

Ford views autonomous delivery services as an upgrade to traditional, commercial van-based operations. Additionally, local businesses would be able to offer deliveries more frequently at pick up locations using driverless vehicles. The car manufacturer explained at CES 2018 that it is critical for the cars to keep moving, in order to streamline profitability.

"Any time you are not carrying goods or people in this business you are not making money," highlighted Jim Farley, executive vice president and president of global markets at Ford.

Scaling Delivery Services for Small Businesses

According to Sherif Marakby, vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification at Ford, the collaboration with Postmates is fueled by a much larger goal of integrating autonomous deliveries with small businesses. The automaker wants to capture the nascent market, which could help local establishments compete with other businesses.

"In the realm of goods delivery, we want to support small and medium-size businesses who may want to take advantage of delivery services but don't have the ability to tap into complex, expensive logistics systems," said Farley, in a blog post.

By providing affordable and highly efficient driverless delivery services, Ford believes small companies could scale operations at a faster pace. For consumers, this could result in quicker delivery times and lower delivery fees.

The expansion of self-driving delivery services directly challenges other businesses in the industry, such as Uber, which has pilot programs setup in San Francisco and Pittsburgh.

Ford also has a partnership with Lyft, one of Uber's top competitors in the space. Outside of the collaboration, Lyft has ongoing agreements with nuTonomy, Drive.ai, General Motors and Jaguar Land Rover.  

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