Ford is expanding to become the first company to test autonomous vehicles in Washington, D.C., according to the district, by establishing a self-driving vehicle business – a business that will be responsive to the needs of the city and its residents.
Both Ford and district officials have committed to exploring how self-driving vehicles can be deployed in an equitable way across the various neighborhoods that make up Washington, D.C., and in a way that promotes job creation.
The advent of self-driving vehicles promises a chance to make it more affordable and easier for people to get to jobs by filling gaps in access to public transportation, new ways to deliver food and other products, and more. It also means change that will greatly impact people and their communities.
Ford is working with local officials in Washington, D.C., to ensure that they test self-driving vehicles in all eight of the district’s wards — and eventually operate business pilot programs in all eight wards as well as work towards deployment of a commercial service in 2021.
The American carmaker’s partners at Argo AI, who are leading development of the self-driving system, already have vehicles on district streets, mapping roads in the first step toward testing in autonomous mode. Over the next year, the fleet will grow as they expand testing areas, including within the city’s downtown core.
Meanwhile, Ford is also collaborating with the D.C. Infrastructure Academy in Ward 8, a workforce training centre launched by Mayor Muriel Bowser earlier this year that prepares residents for a number of jobs. The company is looking to train a roster of vehicle operators, who will be responsible for safely operating and monitoring test vehicles on public roads and on closed courses throughout the development process.
Additionally, the automaker will work to train residents for auto technician careers that could involve self-driving vehicles in the future. This training will be through courses developed by Excel Automotive in Ward 7 and Ford’s Automotive Career Exploration program with support from local dealers Chesapeake Ford Truck, DARCARS and Sheehy Ford of Marlow Heights.
To manage their fleet on the ground, Ford has also established an autonomous vehicle operations terminal in Ward 5. This terminal is where we’ll continue developing our vehicle management process, house our fleet, wash sensors and clean vehicles, as well as conduct routine maintenance and troubleshoot any potential problems. All told, this is a great opportunity to see how we can take what we’ve learned in Miami-Dade County and begin building out operations in a new city.
“Expanding our operations into Washington, D.C., is an enormous opportunity to understand how a comprehensive self-driving business could be utilised. The city is one of the largest markets in the United States, with its population growing significantly during working hours as people commute from the suburbs or take the subway. Outside of commuters, there are millions of visitors every year, major conferences, a popular food scene, and high demand for ride-hailing and delivery services,” said Sherif Marakby, CEO, Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC in a blog post.