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Ford Motor Co to Deploy its Self-Driving Cars in Austin, TX with Argo AI

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【Summary】Ford Motor Co announced today it has selected the city of Austin, Texas as the third launch market for its self-driving vehicles. The Texas city joins Miami-Dade County and Washington, D.C. where the company is testing its driverless cars.

Eric Walz    Sep 25, 2019 11:30 AM PT
Ford Motor Co to Deploy its Self-Driving Cars in Austin, TX with Argo AI

Austin, Texas is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. It is also turning into a booming tech hub, attracting tech Giants such as Apple, Google and Amazon. Austin was also the first city in the world to host a driverless vehicle on public streets. Ford Motor Co says that these efforts make Austin a great place to launch a self-driving vehicle business.

In a blog post today, the automaker announced it selected the city of Austin as the third launch market for its self-driving vehicles. The Texas city joins Miami-Dade County and Washington, D.C. where Ford is testing its driverless cars.

The state of Texas recently passed a bill governing autonomous technology and created a "Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Task Force" to further study self-driving vehicles, so it makes sense that the Ford Motor Co has chosen tech-friendly Austin to be the next city to deploy its self-driving cars. 

The autonomous vehicles will be deployed in collaboration with Ford's autonomous driving arm Argo AI. Ford invested $1 billion investment in Argo in Feb 2017 to jumpstart its autonomous driving developement, back when the startup was a little-known Pittsburgh-based robotics company. Ford is allowing Argo to continue operate as a independent company and the two companies are working together on autonomous driving.

Initially, Ford's vehicles will be mapping roads and testing our self-driving systems. The automaker also plans to conduct business pilots, to see how to best deploy its self-driving vehicles. As a company, Ford is actively exploring new mobility options that will serve cities in the future and personal car ownership is expected to decline.

The vehicles will be manually driven through east Austin as well as downtown, mapping the city's main corridors in preparation for autonomous testing. The mapping project will help Argo AI  develop a comprehensive understanding of the environment where they will operate. Argo president Peter Rander said it will be challenging.

Rander said the areas has heavy pedestrian activity as well as bicycles and electric scooters. He said Austin has more scooter activity than the company has seen in other cities its currently testing in. 

Rader said the scooters are especially challenging For Argo AI's engineering team because they're essentially motorized pedestrians, with speedy and unique movements that needs to be accounted for by Argo's autonomous driving software.

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Ford to Work Closely with the City of Austin

Unlike the electric scooter craze where hundreds of electric scooters from competing companies were dumped unannounced on city streets seemingly overnight, Ford plans to take a different approach and work more closely with Austin city officials.

The automaker wants to ensure it's properly integrating its mobility plans into the wider transportation system. Ford is developing a comprehensive understanding of what people and local businesses of Austin would find useful. 

Ford said it will study the unique needs of Ausin over the next few years and will tailor its mobility services to best address the city's needs. Ford plans to engage local businesses and community groups about how this new technology can be deployed to help enhance people's day-to-day lives.

Aside from being a prominent tech hub, the city of Austin is the fastest growing metro region in America, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The influx of new residents is also increasing traffic on Austin's roads. Advanced mobility options just be a solution to Austin's growing traffic problems.

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization predicts vehicle use in the Austin region could double by 2040, while highway capacity will only grow 15 percent, which can lead to increased traffic woes if a viable transportation solution is not worked out.

That solution may ultimately be Ford's deployment of self-driving vehicles along with other advanced mobility services.

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