2-27-18 10:14 AM EST | Email Article
By Tim Higgins 

Ford Motor Co., which is focusing its initial forays into the driverless-car business on around-town deliveries, has picked Florida's Miami-Dade County as its first test-bed.

The Dearborn, Mich.-based auto maker announced Miami's selection on Tuesday. The test is two fold: one set of self-driving vehicles, plus another set of human-driven cars and trucks that deliver food and other things. The human-driven vehicles will be made to look like self-driving cars with graphics and fake sensors, and the drivers will have rules about interacting with the customers with the aim of creating an experience of what it is like for a robot to make a delivery. The delivery vehicles in the test will be dropping off for Domino's Pizza and for Postmates, a food-delivery service. Other partners are expected to be added.

"We want to understand what customers do to interact with an AV vehicle, " said Sherif Marakby, Ford's vice president of autonomous vehicles. Ford conducted a short test with Domino's in Ann Arbor, Mich., last year.

After years of tests in California, more self-driving car tests are popping up in places like Phoenix and Pittsburgh. Ford is racing to catch up with Waymo and General Motors Co.

Waymo, which plans to begin a commercial robot taxi service in Phoenix this year, received permission to operate a transportation network from the state of Arizona in January. The unit of Google-parent Alphabet Inc. also recently added Atlanta to the list of cities its conducting tests of its self-driving vehicles.

Ford's announcement also comes a day after an announcement that BMW AG and Toyota Motor Corp.'s corporate venture funds led a $11.5 million fundraising round to help startup May Mobility expand demos and tests of self-driving shuttles in Tampa and suburban Dallas.

The activity potentially places further pressure on Congress to clear a growing thicket of regulatory questions. Legislation aimed at keeping states from passing competing laws regulating the new technology -- which have been complicating the self-driving movement -- has stalled in the Senate. On Monday, the California Department of Motor Vehicles received final approval to implement new rules that allow for the deployment of driverless cars in the state, something, the DMV said, could happen as soon as April.

Write to Tim Higgins at tim.higgins@wsj.com


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 27, 2018 10:14 ET (15:14 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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