Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Ford tests self-driving deliveries in Miami

Steve Rogerson
June 19, 2018



Ford is working with Postmates, an on-demand delivery platform, to develop a self-driving food delivery service in Miami.
 
Research vehicles for business pilots are designed to appear as self-driving, however, they are manually driven by an experienced driver. The focus of the research is on the first and last kilometre of the delivery experience. Ford is developing the self-driving technology in separate test vehicles.
 
The Postmates pilot is underway in Miami and Miami Beach with more than 70 businesses participating, including local favourites such as Coyo Taco. For residents in the area, when they order tacos – or almost anything, really – through Postmates, they may be given the option to have their items delivered by a self-driving research vehicle.
 
“What does that mean? It’s easier to show than to tell, so let’s examine the future of food delivery enabled by self-driving technology,” said Alexandra Ford English from the car maker’s autonomous vehicle business team. “Some things don’t change – when your meal is ready to be delivered, a restaurant employee will place it in the vehicle.”
 
Ford designed a Transit Connect for this pilot programme with a locker system to secure the food and allow it to serve multiple customers on one delivery route. Additionally, services such as Postmates must deliver an assortment of products from sushi restaurants to hardware stores. Therefore, the rear and passenger-side lockers are different sizes to allow Ford to test optimal vehicle configuration. Ultimately, it is testing how businesses and consumers interact with a self-driving vehicle.
 
After the restaurant employee types his access code into the screen, one of the lockers will automatically open so that he or she can place the food inside. Each locker has two cup holders to keep beverages intact in transit.
 
When the vehicle arrives at its destination, the customer receives a text notification indicating the delivery is ready for pickup.
 
Upon meeting the vehicle at the kerb, consumers enter an access code into the touch screen and the appropriate locker will open. Audio prompts direct the interaction and lights illuminate the designated locker. Ford is trying to make interactions with the vehicle as easy as possible through various sensory technologies built into the Transit Connect. 
 
This is the car maker’s first self-driving research vehicle modified specifically to test a variety of interfaces – the touch screen, the locker system, the external audio system – to inform the design of its purpose-built self-driving vehicle that’s due to arrive in 2021.
 
Through the partnership with Postmates, Ford is testing methods for efficient deliveries to help local businesses expand their reach and provide a seamless experience to customers.
 
“If you have the opportunity to check out the self-driving experience, jump at the chance to contribute to the future of delivery,” said English. “And equally important – don’t forget to enjoy your meal!”