- Ford is working with the online ordering platform Postmates to pilot an expanded self-driving food delivery service, according to a Medium post by Alexandra Ford English, a member of Ford's Autonomous Vehicle Business team. The test is underway in Miami and Miami Beach, Florida, with more than 70 participating businesses.
- When placing an order, consumers choose if they want it delivered by a self-driving vehicle. For the pilot, Ford designed the Transit Connect, a vehicle with a locker system that keeps food secure and allows for multiple deliveries in one trip. It contains rear and passenger-side lockers in various sizes to accommodate different deliveries. When the car arrives, consumers get a text message to meet the vehicle curbside, enter an access code on a touchscreen and the locker containing their order will open. The interaction will be guided by audio prompts and lights.
- Ford said it is testing a number of elements, specifically the first and last mile of the delivery experience. The carmaker will look at how consumers interact with the vehicle, the touch screen, locker system and external audio system to inform its fleet of self-driving vehicles scheduled for release in 2021. While the research vehicles appear to be self-driving, they are being manually driven for the test.
By expanding its tests of self-driving delivery vehicles, Ford continues a shift from selling and manufacturing vehicles to exploring how autonomous and mobile-first technology will impact transportation and potentially support businesses and brands. Hoping to be a front-runner in the market, Ford previously conducted two rounds of tests in August 2017 delivering Domino's pizzas via autonomous vehicles in Miami and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ford first announced plans for its partnership with Postmates in January, at the Consumer Electronics Show.
With each pilot program, the company has looked to streamline the ordering process and improve customer experiences with self-driving vehicles. Competitors like Toyota and Tesla are also getting into the self-driving game in different ways. Toyota recently announced a $7.5 million investment in Boxbot, an Oakland, California-based startup bringing self-driving vehicles to the delivery service model.
With mobile food ordering on the rise, self-driving delivery could be a game changer, giving consumers more convenience and adding more automation to the process. Despite lingering safety concerns, consumers are also expressing a greater interest and higher levels of trust in self-driving vehicles. According to the 2018 Deloitte Global Automotive Consumer Study, 47% of consumers said autonomous cars aren't safe, compared to 74% who said the same in 2017.
The focus on self-driving cars comes at a time when Ford is reevaluating its business strategy, which is struggling. In April, Ford announced it would stop selling sedans in North America, except for the Mustang and a new vehicle called the Focus Arrive, which will debut in 2019. The company is trimming its marketing spend, with an eye to cut costs by $25.5 billion. As part of that, it recently put large portions of its advertising business, previously handled by WPP, up for review.