Ford Purchases Property in Austin for Autonomous Car Command Center

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【Summary】A piece of property near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will become a command center for Ford’s autonomous vehicles in Texas.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Dec 15, 2019 6:00 AM PT
Ford Purchases Property in Austin for Autonomous Car Command Center

Traditional automakers are entering the autonomous scene with a chip on their shoulders. Ride-sharing companies, startups, and massive tech companies are leading the way forward, while traditional automakers lag behind. Some brands, like Ford, are looking to change that by partnering with tech companies and expanding to new locations in the United States. Ford expanded its autonomous program to Austin, Texas in September, and is now widening its program in the city.

Ford Expanding In Austin

According to the Statesman, Ford announced recent investments that include building a terminal for its autonomous fleet and a command center for the automaker in the city. Ford has reportedly secured two pieces of real estate that are crucial to the expansion. Property has been purchased near the city's international airport, which is a great location as it's only a short drive from the heart of the city.

In addition to the command center near the airport, Ford also has plans to lease a space in the eastern part of Austin. That specific location will act as a "terminal" for the automaker's autonomous fleet.

Ford's autonomous vehicles are only operating in three cities in the U.S.: Austin, Miami, and Washington, D.C. If the automaker's command center and fleet terminal do well in Austin, there's a strong chance that other cities would get similar centers. For the automaker, the two new locations are all about supporting its fleet of vehicles.

"The command center will be a mix of servicing, storing and managing vehicles," said Katheleen Baireuther, market manager for Ford Autonomous Vehicles in Austin. "We'll have customer care, and have some of our business operations on site in Austin to support the local business and make sure that everything is running smoothly."

While the new locations may sound like an emphasis on assisting Ford's autonomous Fusion Hybrids, the downtown terminal is more to support Argo AI. An Argo AI spokesman told the outlet that the new terminal will specifically be used to support Argo Ai's continued process of mapping Austin. Mapping the physical city itself isn't all that difficult or time consuming, but the problem comes when Ford and Argo AI want to build the maps using the data.

Helping Both Ford And Argo AI

Autonomous testing of cars is expected to begin before the end of the year.

"Vehicle operations and fleet management are essential parts of building a successful and scalable self-driving service in Austin and other markets which we'll expand to in the future," Don Conroy, director, Autonomous Vehicle Fleet Management at Ford Autonomous Vehicles, said in a statement, reports Patch. "The command center and terminal buildings offer Ford the opportunity to see firsthand how our vehicles will operate and what they need from us to make sure they are being utilized around the clock."

When Ford announced that it would expand its autonomous program to Austin earlier this September, the automaker claimed that the main goal was to introduce a service that involved moving people and goods. The official commercial service is expected to be launched in 2021, and the two new facilities in the city will help Ford meet the timeline.

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