Ford will start by mapping the streets of downtown Austin this November. Eventually, the size of the fleet and the geographic area will grow until Ford is ready to launch an autonomous taxi and delivery service at scale in 2021, the company said. The Texas state capital joins Miami and Washington, DC as initial launch markets for the company’s autonomous vehicle service. It’s also testing the cars in Detroit, Palo Alto and Pittsburgh.
Ford will gradually increase the size of the coverage area and its fleet of self-driving cars. Ford will have to account for “heavy pedestrian activity, notably people riding bicycles and scooters. Scooters are especially interesting because they’re essentially motorized pedestrians, with speedy and unique movement behavior that needs to be accounted for. Austin has more scooter activity than we’ve seen in other cities where we’re currently testing.”
Ford maintains that it can still launch its commercial service in 2021. Sherif Marakby, the president and CEO of Ford’s autonomous division, said while other companies set deadlines that were “too aggressive and unrealistic,” Ford always stuck with its 2021 plan. The company announced a major partnership with avaolkswagen earlier this year. As part of the deal, VW will invest a whopping $2.6 billion in Argo AI. In addition, Ford will gain access to VW’s electric-vehicle MEB platform. The company says it will use the platform to design and build at least one high-volume fully electric vehicle in Europe starting in 2023.