Ford is working with on-demand delivery platform Postmates to trial a self-driving delivery service focusing on the first and last mile of the delivery experience.
A food delivery pilot is currently underway in Miami and Miami Beach with more than 70 businesses participating, including Coyo Taco. Residents in the area that order a taco through Postmates may be given the option to have the items delivered by a self-driving research vehicle.
Although, the research vehicles for the business pilots are designed to appear as self-driving, they are actually manually driven. Ford is developing self-driving technology in separate test vehicles.
A Transit Connect has been designed for the pilot with a locker system to secure food and allow it to serve multiple customers on one delivery route.
After the restaurant employee types his access code into the screen, one of the lockers will automatically open so that he can place the food inside. Each locker has two cup holders so that you don’t have to worry about losing half your beverage in transit.
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. Audio prompts direct the interaction and lights will illuminate the designated locker.
Additionally, services like Postmates must deliver an assortment of products from sushi restaurants to hardware stores. Therefore, the rear and passenger-side lockers are different sizes to allow Ford to test optimal vehicle configuration.
Ford reckons it will have purpose-built self driving vehicles available by 2021 and the results of this project – the touch screen, the locker system, the external audio system – will be used in the design of the purpose-built self-driving vehicle.