Ford is working with on-demand delivery platform Postmates in the US to operate a self-driving delivery service, a bit like Amazon Locker on wheels.
Currently underway in Miami Beach, the Postmates pilot involves up to 70 businesses, including local favourites like Coyo Taco. For residents in the area, when they order tacos – or almost anything else – through Postmates, they may be given the option to have items delivered by a self-driving research vehicle.
The only thing is that the research vehicles may be designed to appear as self-driving, but they are in fact manually driven. At least for now. That’s because the focus of Ford’s research is on the first and last mile of the delivery experience while it develops self-driving technology in separate test vehicles.
For the pilot program Ford has designed a Transit Connect with a locker system to secure food and allow multiple customers to be served on one delivery route.
After the restaurant employee types his or her access code into the screen, one of the lockers will automatically open to place the food inside. When the vehicle arrives at its destination, the customer receives a text notification indicating the delivery is ready for pickup.
Upon meeting the vehicle at the curb, consumers enter an access code into the touch screen and the appropriate locker will open – a bit like a portable Amazon locker. Audio prompts direct the interaction and lights will illuminate the designated locker.
This is Ford’s first self-driving research vehicle modified specifically to test a variety of interfaces including the touch screen, the locker system and the external audio system. It is hoped it will inform the design of its purpose-built self-driving vehicle which is due to arrive in 2021.
You can see The You Tube video for the self driving vehicle below: