The partnership was announced by Ford’s Autonomous Vehicles director, Brian Wolf, in a Medium post. In the post, Wolf said Ford is interested in seeing how self-driving vehicles could impact the goods delivery market. That’s why it’s teamed up with Walmart and Postmates to run a trial in Miami-Dade County in Florida, Wolf says:
Through this collaboration, we are exploring how self-driving vehicles can deliver many everyday goods such as groceries, diapers, pet food and personal care items. Enabled by Postmates delivery as a service, we were able to quickly set up a pilot program that explores how our self-driving vehicles can complement Walmart’s existing delivery offerings. Since Postmates is already a partner of both Ford and Walmart, the companies are able to utilize Postmates’ infrastructure to get this offering up and running quickly.
It’s important to note, however, that Ford won’t be using actual self-driving vehicles in the pilot. Instead, the company will be using research vehicles designed to simulate an autonomous experience. It’s through those research vehicles that Ford wants to pinpoint any issues or improvements that could be made to the vehicles themselves to enhance the self-driving delivery experience. For example:
Naturally, orders from a supermarket will tend to be larger and more varied than orders from a restaurant or dry cleaner. So we’ll be exploring different vehicle configurations or modifications that we could make to meet people’s needs–especially to accommodate perishable goods, or scenarios where our vehicles end up making multiple deliveries on a single trip.
Ford is currently aiming to commercially launch its first fleet of self-driving vehicles in 2021.