Ford obviously has a very different view of its future, one that involves more than just selling cars.

Following a trial of driverless pizza delivery with Dominos in Miami, the project has been expanded to include more than 70 local businesses.

Ford is working with Postmates, an on-demand delivery platform, to operate a self-driving delivery service — one that delivers much more than pizza.

One of the new additions is Coyo Taco.

The focus of research is on the first and last mile of the delivery experience, and the self-driving technology is being developed across separate test vehicles.

When residents of the Miami area order almost anything through Postmates, they may be given the option to have their items delivered by a self-driving research vehicle.

BUT, although the research vehicles are designed to appear as self-driving, at this stage they actually contain a hidden driver.

Ford has modified a Transit Connect van for the pilot program with a locker system to secure food and allow multiple deliveries on a single route.

Additionally, services like 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 testing of the optimal vehicle configuration.

Ultimately, Ford says it is testing how businesses and consumers interact with a self-driving vehicle.

After a restaurant worker types his access code into the screen, one of the lockers will automatically open so that food can be placed inside.

Each locker also has two cup holders so that half your beverage won’t be lost in transit.

When the vehicle arrives at its destination, customers receive a text 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 opens.

Audio prompts direct the interaction and lights illuminate the designated locker.

This is Ford’s first self-driving research vehicle modified specifically to test a variety of interfaces: the touch screen, locker system, and external audio system.

The research will be used in the design of Ford’s purpose-built self-driving vehicle that’s scheduled to arrive in 2021.

 

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Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.