Ford to Expand Autonomous Program to Texas Before Launching Taxi Service

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【Summary】The American automaker already has autonomous cars testing in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., and Miami, but will soon spread to Austin, Texas.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Apr 22, 2019 10:00 AM PT
Ford to Expand Autonomous Program to Texas Before Launching Taxi Service

Ford may have entered the autonomous game late, but the American automaker has made plenty of moves to put it toward the top of the heap. The most notable thing Ford did to put itself in a good position is invest $1 billion in Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based startup that's working on robotics and artificial intelligence for autonomous cars. The goal with partnering with Argo AI is to have a self-driving taxi service by 2021. To reach its objective, Ford is expanding its autonomous program to a new city: Austin, Texas. 

Austin Is A Part Of Ford's Game Plan

According to TechCrunch, which found a job listing for a "market specialist" for autonomous vehicles in Austin, Ford is looking to get more testing done before launching its self-driving taxi program. If true, Austin would become the fifth city where Ford is testing, joining the likes of Detroit, Pittsburgh, Miami, and Washington, D.C.  

The outlet reached out to the automaker for a comment, but, in usual fashion for a brand, Ford didn't confirm whether it would be expanding its testing to Austin. "We are on track to announce the next deployment city in which we plan to expand our self-driving technology and business testing efforts by the end of this year," a Ford spokesperson told the outlet in an email. "We will provide more details at the appropriate time." 

Ford has taken an interesting path when it comes to developing autonomous technology. Instead of other automakers that are working steadfastly on coming out with self-driving vehicles to sell to the masses, or at least consumers with deep pockets, Ford is more interested in the commercial aspect of driverless cars. For Ford, it's all about the other business doors that autonomous vehicles will open. Besides its taxi service, Ford is also interested in managing a fleet of autonomous vehicles to sell to businesses. 

Argo AI isn't the only company Ford has partnered with. The automaker is working with Domino's, Postmates, and Walmart in various pilot programs that focus on autonomous delivery services. Some smaller local businesses are in the mix, too. 

How Would Ford's Austin Program Work?

TechCrunch claims that if Ford were to introduce an autonomous vehicle program in Austin, it would occur in a similar fashion as with its program in other U.S. cities. First, Argo AI would driverless cars to map the city, or at least areas where the autonomous vehicles would be operating. While this is happening, Ford uses "research vehicles" to examine multiple business cases in the area, which usually involve local companies. 

The last part of Ford's equation involves opening a terminal. Also known as operations centers, these terminals are where the automaker stores its self-driving cars, fixes its vehicles, and data. 

All of Ford's autonomous testing now fits snuggly under one LLC the automaker made last year. The sole purpose of the LLC is to come out with a business that involves autonomous cars. The American automaker has spent a massive amount of money to bring its autonomous program to light and it's not finished yet, as the brand plans to spend an additional $4 billion through 2023 to get the job done. 

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