Ford is hitting the road to test its autonomous vehicles in partnership with the city of Miami, as the automaker intends to capitalize on the emerging technology within ride-share and business delivery. Ford continued to test its Fusion, which is equipped with autonomous vehicle tech (AV), in Miami since February. Ford chose this city in particular thanks to its congestion and the unpredictability of the traffic, while tests are also being done in three other cities, including Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Washington D.C.
Ford reports it plans to begin selling its self-driving vehicles by 2021, however, the company is still testing ways it can use these cars to carry people and items. Sherif Marakby, CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles, told CNBC the company is focused on profitability and scalability.
“We’re laser-focused on profitability,” said Marakby, who said autonomous vehicles provide transportation at a lower cost than current vehicles. “While the vehicle is expensive, initially we’re deploying it in service so the cost per mile for transportation for a person or a business is going to be lower and will be profitable for us,” he said.
By 2023, Ford claims it plans to invest a whopping $4 billion into its AV technology. On Wednesday it announced a new partnership with Walmart and Postmates to collaborate on a delivery service that will one day use autonomous vehicles.
CNBC was granted the opportunity to test ride in a Ford autonomous vehicle, however, it did travel along a predetermined and pre-programmed route. Ford even added a safety driver to the car, whose hands hovered over the steering wheel, which the company stated was a “precaution.”
Meanwhile, Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Alphabet, will launch its first AV service by the end of the year, in hopes of attracting business customers. General Motors’ Cruise says it will also create its own autonomous ride-share service by next year.
Some analysts believe Ford is trailing behind in self-driving technology, however, Marakby believes otherwise. “I want investors and I want everyone to know that we are developing an autonomous vehicle service that means a whole lot more than the car,” Marakby said. “What that means is … when we launch these cars it’s not just going to be the car. It’s going to be an app. It’s going to be the cloud … The autonomous car will know where to go when someone orders it.”
Ford is phasing out manufacturing of most of its cars while increasing production of trucks and SUVs. Marakby states Ford’s ride-share vehicle will be designed for that particular business.
“We feel that what we’re building is an autonomous vehicle mobility service and we think the future is going to continue to have more and more of these transportation methods,” he said.