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Ford Motor Co is Launching a 6-Month Autonomous Grocery Delivery Pilot in Detroit

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【Summary】Ford Motor Company, in collaboration with its philanthropic arm, Ford Motor Company Fund, is launching a grocery delivery pilot in Southwest Detroit using autonomous vehicles. The grocery delivery service is expected to provide around 10,000 pounds of fresh food to senior citizens living in the area that have mobility challenges and are not able to get to the grocery store on their own.

FutureCar Staff    Dec 14, 2021 8:00 AM PT
Ford Motor Co is Launching a 6-Month Autonomous Grocery Delivery Pilot in Detroit

Ford Motor Company, in collaboration with its philanthropic arm, Ford Motor Company Fund, is launching a grocery delivery pilot in Southwest Detroit using autonomous vehicles. The grocery delivery service is expected to provide around 10,000 pounds of fresh food to senior citizens living in the area that have mobility challenges and are not able to get to the grocery store on their own.

The pilot program, which will run for six months, is one of the first community service projects bringing Detroit's Michigan Central district to life, which is the city's oldest neighborhood.  

The service area is part of Ford's vision to create a 30-acre walkable community anchored by the iconic Michigan Central Station that sat abandoned since 1988. For decades, the crumbling and abandoned station served as a symbol of Detroit's urban blight, but new initiatives from Ford include restoration of the Beaux-Arts style train station and bringing the surrounding region back to life as a hub for advanced mobility.

In 2018, Ford Motor Co Executive Chairman Bill Ford announced plans to purchase and restore Detroit's Michigan Central station. The building will become the centerpiece of an innovation hub to help define the way people and goods will move around in the future. Ford is working with other partners to realize its vision for the neighborhood, which will serve as a test site for future mobility services.

The food delivery pilot will serve residents of the Rio Vista Detroit Co-op Apartments senior living center now will see their existing food deliveries from a complimentary program launched earlier this year by Ford Fund and Gleaners Community Food Bank in Detroit. 

The number of food delivery orders to residents will double in the coming weeks as they receive an additional shipment of groceries through the pilot, according to Ford.

"We're constantly thinking about how to expand our reach in communities for those who don't have access to the most basic goods, like groceries or warm meals," said Joe Provenzano, mobility director, Ford Motor Company Fund. "Bringing Ford's mobility expertise together with local collaborations allows us to create innovative solutions that make communities stronger and people's lives better."

The pilot will use a low-speed autonomous shuttle operated by the Ford future tech autonomous vehicle team and Quantum Signal AI, a wholly owned Ford subsidiary. The shuttle will run along a fixed route between the Southwest Detroit Ford Resource and Engagement Center, where grocery bags will be loaded and delivered to residents participating in the program.

Participants currently receive a mix of dry and canned goods plus fresh produce, including milk and cheese. However with the new pilot up and running, Rio Vista residents will receive an additional delivery each month containing fresh produce and milk. The items being delivered are selected based on feedback from residents on what they request the most.

Although the autonomous delivery vehicle will operate on its own, there will be a safety driver on board monitoring the shuttle at all times. As an added layer of safety, the vehicle will also be monitored by a second operations team that can take over controls remotely using a cellular network, if needed. 

The pilot vehicle has been outfitted by Ford's experienced design team for more efficient packing and transit of fresh food items and for easier loading and unloading when the vehicle arrives.

Through this grocery delivery pilot, Ford aims to learn the best methods of autonomous goods delivery from a technical standpoint, including using advanced mobility services, such as self-driving vehicles, to meet the needs of people living in underserved communities.

The new service in Detroit follows Ford's other autonomous delivery pilots. The most recent was in September, when Ford, Walmart and its autonomous driving technology arm Argo AI announced an autonomous delivery service using Ford vehicles outfitted by Argo AI. The self-driving vehicles will deliver orders placed online to Walmart customers. 

The service will initially launch in three U.S. cities, Miami, Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C. The ultimate goal is for the autonomous vehicles to eventually operate without humans onboard.


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