Ford Motor Co. is branching out its driverless technology to help out the logistics delivery service-based company, Postmates.
Postmates has been connecting consumers with drivers to deliver their take-out, groceries or other miscellaneous purchases since December 2014.
Ford announced its partnership with the ride service company last Tuesday. The partnership is intended to challenge companies like Uber Technologies Inc. in the race toward becoming fully autonomous driving services.
The pilot program is expected to roll out later this year, and it will explore how self-driving technology could help improve the delivery experience.
“In the future, when a consumer uses Postmates to place a purchase -- whether for groceries, takeout or other goods -- a self-driving vehicle could be what delivers her order,” Sherif Marakby, Ford’s vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification said. “We’ll study both what the merchant experience needs to be at the point of delivery and what the customer experience needs to be at that same point.”
Human drivers will still be behind the wheel of the driverless Ford vehicles sent out by Postmates. However, the new autonomous system will help Ford have a better understanding of how the delivery system works and how it will interact with consumers.
Even though Ford currently has an active partnership with ride-hailing company Lyft, the automaker is mainly focusing on moving goods for both small and large businesses.
Regarding goods delivery, Farley continued, “We’re testing the business model.”
Ford plans on powering its self-driving cars with plug-in hybrid systems that rely on petroleum-fueled engines to help extend the driving range and power the electronic system needed for driverless technology systems.
However, the Chair of the California Air Resources Board, Mary Nichols, publicly expressed her objection toward this plan last month.
In a recent tweet, Nichols wrote, “Earth to Ford: what part of sustainability do you not understand? Driverless hybrid vehicles running 24/7 delivering pizza and passengers means more tons of pollution/GHGs in cities!”
Marakby and Farley rebutted by explaining that the power demands from computers and sensors can cut the range of an all-electric self-driving car by half. Ford also announced that it does not plan on using full electronic systems until the second generation of driverless cars roll out.
The U.S. automaker will begin working with Silicon Valley transportation software company Autonomic to build a cloud-based platform for base processes, such as payment methods or identity verification efforts.
"The way commerce is moving around in cities is dramatically changing, and emerging technology will undoubtedly have an impact on the future of on-demand delivery," Ford said in a post on Medium. "With the knowledge we'll gain from our partnership with Postmates, we anticipate we'll be able to better deploy self-driving technology in a way that can help people get what they need faster, while also supporting local businesses that are a big part of communities around the world."