Ford Motor Company, together with delivery service Postmates, has begun testing delivery vehicles that have been carefully designed to replicate the experience of receiving orders from an autonomous vehicle. Testing is now underway in Miami and Miami Beach, Florida, and with the study, Ford and Postmates are hoping to gain insight into how consumers might interact with future self-driving delivery vehicles.
The vehicle itself is a Ford Transit Connect, upfitted with a digital touchscreen on the exterior that allows delivery customers to punch in a numerical code that allows them to retrieve their order. The van can hold multiple orders, each kept in a separate, locked delivery compartment to lessen the risk of order confusion or theft. About the only thing separating it from a true autonomous food delivery vehicle is the human driver behind the wheel – although Ford is of course working on that, too.
More than 70 businesses around Miami and Miami Beach are participating in Ford’s faux-autonomous food delivery research project with Postmates, including both local restaurants and retail shops. The Transit Connect boasts three order compartments – two at the back, and one on the side – in two different sizes to test for the optimal dimensions to carry food and other goods.
Ford is committed to putting its first fully-autonomous vehicle into production sometime in 2021, although it won’t be available for individual purchase; initially, the vehicle will be offered exclusively to rideshare and ride-hailing providers. Chances are Ford’s first autonomous delivery vehicle won’t be far behind.