Ford Motor Company announced on Wednesday Austin, Texas will be added to the list of cities that will take part in a planned launch of a commercial transportation system that will make use of self-driving vehicles. Miami and Washington had already been listed as cities where the automaker plans to transport people, as well as, goods with automated vehicles.
Ford is testing autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Palo Alta, California. However, there are no plans at this time to launch commercial services in these cities.
The self-driving system used by Ford is being developed in concert with a startup company from Pittsburg called Argo AI. Ford, along with, Volkswagon AG, is a majority stakeholder in the company. The system is currently being tested by drivers using the Ford Fusion Hybrid.
Sherif Marakby is the chief executive of the autonomous vehicle division for Ford. Marakby says Ford will launch its commercial service in 2021 and the service will be available to transport both people and goods.
Marakby says the company is committed to driving the technology and integration that will fuel the industry for autonomous vehicles. The chief executive says he expects to see great progress in these areas over the next few years.
Argo AI President Peter Rander says the company is ready to have drivers manually map out city streets and assess the behavior of other drivers and pedestrians. Drivers will use the Fusion to gather the data that will be used to program the autonomous vehicle model the company will use for the commercial service.
The plan to launch fleet vehicles in multiple cities is a little different than what is being tried by competitors in the hotly contested industry.
Waymo chose Phoenix as the spot to launch its automated ride service a year ago. The hybrid uses specially outfitted minivans from the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid series.
The Cruise Automation division of General Motors announced in July it will delay its planned automated commercial vehicle service in San Francisco. The launch was originally planned for 2019 but the company says more testing is needed before the service can be offered to the public.