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Ford launching first driverless vehicle program in Miami

by Drew Johnson

Ford\'s autonomous cars will now be a staple on South Beach.

Ford is taking its self-driving talents to South Beach. The Dearborn-based automaker announced on Tuesday plans to setup an autonomous car hub in Florida's Miami-Dade county.

Ford's autonomous vehicle rollout in South Florida will be a gradual one; the company will first launch pilot programs with Domino's Pizza and food delivery service Postmates before moving into the ride-hailing space. Ford is also expanding its partnership with Argo AI to improve the way its autonomous vehicles move through the city. Ford plans use the information learned from the program to help launch its first autonomous car in 2021.

"So now, we're headed to Florida to test and prove out our business model,” Sherif Marakby, Ford Vice President, Autonomous Vehicles and Electrification, wrote in an article for Medium. "With the help of Miami-Dade County, we're taking our service directly to the streets of Miami and Miami Beach.”

Initially, Ford will study how people interact with autonomous vehicles — from how employees stock the vehicles to how far people are willing to walk from their homes to retrieve their food or groceries. The automaker will expand its autonomous program into other areas in the coming months and years.

In order to support the project, Ford is establishing its first-ever autonomous vehicle operations terminal in Miami. The terminal will serve as the hub for all of Ford's autonomous vehicle activity — the facility will be responsible for housing, cleaning, fixing and maintaining all of the company's driverless cars. Local dealers will also be brought on to not only help service the vehicles, but also to learn about their high-tech systems ahead of public sales.

Ford says it picked Miami because of its notorious traffic. According to a recent survey, Miami is the 10th most congested city in the world and the 5th most congested city in the United States. Miami's lack of snow was also likely a driving factor in Ford decision to settle on South Florida for its first driverless car program.

Ford hopes to "quickly expand” its autonomous car program to other cities, but the company has not detailed those plans as of yet.