Ford hasn’t shied away from the prospect of robo-cars.
Back in 2017, Ford brought on autonomous vehicle startup Argo AI to develop a self-driving program with plans to provide a self-driving taxi service in several cities by 2021. It’s been testing in Miami, Washington, D.C., Detroit, and maybe soon in Austin. Its cars can be spotted testing autonomous food deliveries in Miami. Autonomous pizza, anyone?
Ford cars were even used early in Uber’s self-driving program back before Volvo brought in thousands of its vehicles, including one that was involved in last year’s fatal crash in Arizona.
On Wednesday, the company announced a new autonomous vehicle factory in Michigan, part of a $900 million investment in the region. The factory is an even bigger sign that the auto company wants be part of autonomous technology. It’s supposed to be up and running by 2021, in time for that Ford taxi service to offer autonomous rides.
Along with producing more electric vehicles, the factory plans to take hybrid Fords and make them specifically for self-driving with cameras, sensors, and computers and a “unique interior.” The cars would be for a taxi service and also for transporting groceries or food deliveries. So instead of modifying cars to be self-driving ready, these cars would be made with self-driving as the main, original purpose of the vehicle.
For the past few years, Metro has closed its rail system before midnight on Sundays through Thursdays and at 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, the result of scheduling more repair work overnight to address maintenance and safety issues. Those service hours have forced many late-night workers in the region, including those in the hospitality and healthcare industries, to take Metrorail alternatives in the early morning, from Uber and Lyft to taxis and carpools.
Now, Metro is aiming to alleviate the inconvenience from its shortened hours by subsidizing on-demand rides that late-night workers take within its service area. The transit agency has released a solicitation for companies that could provide discounted rides for these workers, between midnight and 4 a.m. seven days a week. Through a one-year pilot program, Metro would fund up to $1 million in subsidized rides, guaranteeing $3 per ride for up to 10 weekly rides for an individual late-night worker. The program could kick off as soon as this summer.
Ford has already set out its ambitious plan to launch taxi and delivery services using autonomous vehicles by 2021, and is working steadily in a bid to achieve its goal.
Already testing its autonomous technology in Detroit, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C., the car giant is now preparing to extend its operations to Austin, Texas, TechCrunch reported this week, citing sources familiar with the matter.
“We believe that the world is at the beginning of a shift away from car ownership to Transportation-as-a-Service, or TaaS. Lyft is at the forefront of this massive societal change,” they told investors. “Car ownership has … economically burdened consumers. US households spend more on transportation than on any expenditure other than housing. … On a per household basis, the average annual spend on transportation is over $9,500, with the substantial majority spent on car ownership and operation.”
Cars create “inequality,” they argue. “The average cost of a new vehicle in the United States has increased to over $33,000, which most American households cannot afford,” the IPO says. “We estimate over 300,000 Lyft riders have given up their personal cars because of Lyft.”