In a blog post, Alexandra Ford English, a member of the Ford Autonomous Vehicle Business Team, said the research vehicles for the pilots are designed to look like they are self-driving, but are manually driven by a driver, with the focus of the research on the first and last mile of the delivery experience.
“Our Postmates pilot is currently underway in Miami and Miami Beach with more than 70 businesses participating, including local favorites like Coyo Taco,” wrote Ford English in the post. “For residents in the area, when you order tacos — or almost anything, really — through Postmates, you may be given the option to have your items delivered by a self-driving research vehicle.”
The executive noted that for the pilot program, Ford designed a vehicle with a locker system to secure the food and to allow multiple deliveries on one route. The rear and passenger side lockers are different sizes, as Postmates delivers an assortment of products from all sorts of retailers.
The pilot is set up so that when a restaurant employee types a code into the vehicle’s screen, one of the lockers opens so the food can be placed inside. When the vehicle reaches its destination, the customer receives a text alerting them that the delivery is ready for pickup. Upon meeting the vehicle at the curb, the consumer enters an access code on a touch screen and the proper locker opens up.
“This is our first self-driving research vehicle modified specifically to test a variety of interfaces — the touchscreen, the locker system, the external audio system — to inform the design of our purpose-built, self-driving vehicle that’s scheduled to arrive in 2021,” said Ford English. “Ultimately, through our partnership with Postmates, we’re testing methods for efficient deliveries to help local businesses expand their reach and provide a seamless experience to customers.”