Ford announced back at CES 2018 that it was partnering up with Postmates to roll out self-driving delivery vehicles, and the fleet has now been updates with a number of multi-locker vehicles that will be prowling the streets of Miami, Florida with deliveries for multiple customers on hand. The vehicles feature a touchscreen and audio instructions, showing a customer where on the vehicle their item is located and giving them instructions on how to unlock the correct locker to get their item out. Once the vehicle detects that the delivery is complete, the locker slot closes, and it’s off to the next delivery location.
The pilot partnership for these new vehicles includes 70 different businesses in the Miami-Dade area, with local restaurant Coyo Taco serving as the poster child, as seen in the video below. The vehicles are not too different in design from previous self-driving offerings from Ford that have been used for delivery, aside from the multi-locker design and new instruction system. There is a spot for a safety driver, just like in previous models of the Ford Transit Connect. The point of this pilot is to test a new method of interaction between customers and autonomous vehicles, with Ford’s eventual goal being to find the absolute easiest way for customers to deal with self-driving cars used for both transport and delivery.
Ford’s self-driving vehicles are no stranger to the streets of the Miami-Dade area. In fact, they’ve carried Toyo Taco deliveries before, during a pilot back in March. This pilot partnered Ford directly with Toyo Taco to help introduce the vehicles to the local area as gently as possible. The current test runs far more deliveries using Postmates, and will put Ford’s self-driving fleet to the test on streets that it should be familiar with by now. Previously, Ford’s autonomous vehicles had been deployed for testing in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ford will continue testing in various capacities for a while. The company’s current goal is full deployment of multiple-purpose self-driving vehicles across America in 2021. This is slightly behind the predicted 2020 launch date that the industry clung to from early days, a year that still serves as a formal launch goal for a number of rival companies such as Honda, and even Ford’s close partner, Google-owned Waymo.