Ford Working on New Heavy Duty Self-Driving Cars for Commercial Use, Pizza Delivery & Lyft

At AutoMobility LA, Waymo touted its self driving plans while Dr. Gill Pratt revealed Toyota Research Institute’s plans. Shortly thereafter Mary Barra claimed that Cruise Automation will have self-driving in 2019 at its going rate. Ford Executive Vice President Jim Farley wrote about Ford’s plan for self-driving cars and it’s self-driving strategy. Ford is designing heavy duty, safe commercial grade vehicles for self-driving. It is researching self-driving with Lyft and Dominos.

Ford is designing an all-new vehicle optimized for self-driving technology and the customers it will serve. Ford believes the optimization across the vehicle, technology and customer experience will differentiate Ford’s business as it starts to serve leading companies, such as Lyft, in the movement of people and goods.

Ford is conducting research into how people are using new services such as ride-hailing today — and they are looking at how they can evolve with the introduction of autonomous vehicles. For instance, Fords research with Domino’s Pizza helped them better understand the dynamics of food delivery.

Ford is optimizing its self-driving vehicle design to meet the needs of it partners to enhances businesses.

Ford’s Self-Driving Program is Based on Four Principles

Commercial Grade: Ford is going to leverage experience in building vehicles that serve taxi, police and other heavy-duty service fleets. Ford has offered its transit van and super duty pickup, new Police Interceptor utility and F-150 Police Responder truck . Ford is known for heavy duty vehicles. Ford self-driving vehicle will have upgraded components such as brakes, wheels and body structures that can withstand more extreme work cycles, and that it will undergo more rigid durability testing before it goes on the road.

Ford’s commercial fleets are known for their lower cost of ownership and durability. Ford is exploring its knowledge and experience to it’s self-driving vehicle so it will be ready to meet the needs of both ride-hailing and delivery businesses operating in tough urban environments.

Hybrid-Electric: Another strength Ford claims to have is in developing hybrid vehicles, including engineering them for use in commercial operations such as taxi fleets and in police service with the new Police Responder Hybrid sedan, which is the first hybrid to be pursuit-rated. Applying hybrid-electric technology to  self-driving vehicles delivers several benefits to service partner companies, including maximum mileage to keep the vehicle on the road. Plus, Ford believes that hybrids help provide the significant amount of electrical power required for self-driving sensors and computing systems without having a significant impact on the mileage.

Ford claims its hybrids are workhorses — the high voltage batteries used in them are 99.6 percent active after their warranties have ended since it’s first hybrid launched in 2004 .

Designed for Purpose: Ford conducted extensive customer research, and will continue to do so, to understand ride-hailing and delivery partners’ needs. Ford will design both interior and exterior features that will improve their business operations and the customer experience. In research with Domino’s, Ford found that customers enjoyed the voice instructions that played over speakers mounted on the outside of the vehicle to explain how to get their pizza out of the self-driving vehicle upon arrival at their house. In fact, many customers talked back to the car, saying, “Bye,” upon its departure.

Ford believes that self-driving cars must integrate into the community in which they are operating, so it is taking steps to help ensure that other road users, such as pedestrians and bicyclists, can understand the vehicle’s driving intentions through an exterior light signal developed and tested with Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

Integrated for Safety: The teams that are engineering, testing and ultimately building Ford’s self-driving vehicles are working as one to ensure it is producing an integrated product that is developed to be safe, reliable and dependable from the outset. Ford’s development partner, Argo AI, is led by some of the most experienced self-driving experts in the business that have built and commercialized robotic products before. Now 250 people strong, the Argo team is building a scalable software architecture with production-quality code from the start. Their talents combined with Ford’s product development team for systems integration and our manufacturing experts give us all the capability to build high-quality self-driving vehicles.

Farley wrote, “While a self-driving vehicle is very different from cars and trucks on the road today, the method for engineering and manufacturing them should not be. We have well-defined processes for product testing and quality assurance, which is critically important as we scale vehicle production over time…Next year will be an important time for us as we begin to test both our self-driving technology and business model in a variety of pilot programs in the first city in which we plan to operate an autonomous vehicle business. I can’t wait to share more with you about our plans, and promise to do so throughout this journey we’re on to create the future.”