Anyone can summon a Ford self-driving taxi after the company’s service launches in 2021, could be offered detours to sponsoring stores or wind up riding alongside packages out for delivery.
At an event last week to showcase Ford’s progress in developing autonomous vehicles, the carmaker said that its driverless rides could be less than half the price of today’s ride-share journeys if the cars were used day and night and carried interactive adverts. The company is also insistent that it is not dawdling behind Waymo, which has promised a commercial self-driving taxi service by the end of this year, or GM that said it will follow suit in 2019.
CEO at Ford Autonomous Vehicles, Sherif Marakby said that if the company wanted to call a launch 100 vehicles next year and go into some business, it could do that. But, this is an auto company and when anyone talks about the launch at scale, means talking about tens of thousands vehicles and doing that profitably. That’s different from what others are speculating. Marakby noted that Ford’s position is that a successful autonomous-vehicle service will include far more than just a driverless car. It is working to develop fleet management software, routing, dispatch, and payment systems; a diverse group of delivery customers; and digital content and services for riders. These are likely to involve commercial sponsorship and in-car advertising. Several companies are thrilled to put their content in autonomous vehicles and will pay for that.
In Miami, Florida, Ford also offered the first public rides in cars powered by Argo AI, a startup established in 2017 by veterans of Google’s and Uber’s self-driving programs. Later that year, Ford became Argo’s majority owner with an expenditure of USD1 billion. Ford has been experimenting with Argo’s autonomous vehicles for delivery in Miami and elsewhere, racking up more than 1,000 deliveries of Domino’s pizzas and Postmates packages, albeit with safety drivers behind the wheel. Recently, it declared a similar alliance with Walmart. By 2026, Ford tightens the total market for autonomous vehicles at over USD330 billion.