Ford, like many other automakers, is currently developing autonomous vehicle technology. But it has a separate class of "fake" self-driving cars to deal with consumer reaction, and now they're in Miami.
In a blog post on Medium, Ford said that it has deployed its "self-driving" delivery vehicles to Miami and Miami Beach. In conjunction with Postmates, the automaker wants to see how regular Joes and Janes react to a delivery that arrives in an autonomous vehicle, even if the one in question technically isn't.
Here's how it works. Folks using Postmates to get something delivered might have the option to have their package arrive by one of Ford's development vehicles -- in this case, a Transit Connect van adorned with secure lockers on the side and rear. When the vehicle arrives, the user gets a text message, at which point they come outside, plug an access code into the side of the vehicle and retrieve their package. Audio and visual prompts will help guide the person through the process.
While these Transit Connects might be gussied up to look like self-driving cars, there's actually a trained driver in control the entire time. That driver never interacts with the customer, though -- this whole experiment is about seeing how customers interact with vehicles and not people in the course of parcel delivery.
Ford already started a similar program in conjunction with Domino's using Fusion sedans in various markets for "autonomous" pizza delivery. I tried the system out, and not only was it straightforward, I didn't have to tip the car, which was an added benefit.
Ford and other automakers have touted logistics as one of the major ways that self-driving vehicles can be used. Toyota even built its own dedicated platform, the , which can shuttle people around during the day and help move cargo at night. We're one step closer to making those wild trucks from Logan a reality, even if it's still a ways away.