Ford has officially started testing its own self-driving vehicle fleet in Miami, Florida. The fleet is not powered by Waymo’s powerful self-driving AI, despite the partnership between the two companies, but instead by tech sourced from startup Argo AI in which Ford invested heavily. Miami-Dade officials have consented to allow Ford to run tests of fully autonomous vehicles in Downtown Miami, and in the Miami Beach area. This means that they will be operating in some of the most trafficked locations of one of the United States’ most crowded and congested metropolitan areas. Ford is simultaneously testing out a new business initiative that would see manned Ford vehicles on rental replace company-owned fleet vehicles for some partners, such as Domino’s Pizza. If both tests go well, these rental fleets will eventually also become fully autonomous.
For this test, Ford has a license to use entirely driverless vehicles in all of the areas opened up for testing. This test will, in essence, throw Argo AI’s technology straight into one of the most grueling real-world situations possible. As with any other self-driving vehicle AI system, the vehicles are linked together and can learn from one another’s encounters and adventures. Ford’s goal is to have the tests in both the business and autonomous sectors in Miami completed by 2021, at which point it wants to deploy a large number of autonomous vehicles for commercial purposes and expand outward from Miami with its commercial self-driving fleet.
Waymo and Uber have been publicly testing self-driving cars in cities across the United States, but Ford is the very first to put driverless cars on Miami roads. This gives the company a unique position in the burgeoning local market for self-driving vehicles. Waymo recently got approval to begin rolling out its own self-driving cars to the public in the form of autonomous taxis, so if that venture takes off, the two companies may face an interesting scenario; despite being partnered, Waymo and Ford are, for now, seemingly set to compete in Miami and perhaps other markets for domination of the self-driving taxi sector. Both firms also have partnerships with ride-hailing company Lyft, though the two ventures are of somewhat different natures.