Ford revs up self-driving vehicle and smart city plans

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Self-driving cars could be a boon to this type of service, Sherif Marakby, Ford vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification, said in a blog post announcing the partnership.

Postmates is the first on-demand delivery app to work with Ford in this capacity, and will test with the platform this year, including in a pilot in a new city to be announced later by Ford where it will test and eventually launch a self-driving vehicle fleet.

Through this study, Ford plans to get a better understanding of how customers will want to interact with delivery vehicles and what neighborhoods they'll feel safe walking out to the curb to retrieve a meal.

"We are working to verify that the technology underpinning future self-driving cars operates safely and reliably, to ensure that our self-driving vehicles are created to deliver trusted experiences and to prove out that the business model under which they are deployed is viable", he wrote in a blog post. Postmates has customers in 250 cities and more than 120,000 delivery contractors. Ford says its autonomous vehicles will start ferrying meals and groceries sometime this quarter, though there's no word yet on what city the service will debut in.

That's just one piece of Ford's overall strategy, though: The company will be deploying autonomous vehicles in more cities this year as part of a pilot program based on a new software platform the company has been developing. Ford will own and operate its fleet of AVs, but partners like Postmates will offer the service layer that will deliver goods and things like ride-sharing to consumers.

But the technology would add a new burden for pedestrians and cyclists.

Ford also announced a cloud-based smart city platform, created to facilitate communication between various transportation methods and services operating within them, including individual vehicle data.

On stage at the event, Ford executive director Don Butler demoed how an autonomous vehicle could realize if the driver is ill and pull over to the side of the road before alerting authorities.

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