Ford Motor Co. is considering deploying self-driving vehicle technology in larger commercial vehicles and is working with multiple partners to put its autonomous vehicles on the road, a senior Ford executive told Reuters on Tuesday.
“We’ve been talking with different partners in different industries” about potential applications for Ford’s first self-driving vehicle in 2021, including ride-sharing and delivery services,” Sherif Marakby, vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification at Ford, said in an interview.
Marakby recently rejoined Ford from ride-services company Uber Technologies Inc., where he oversaw development of self-driving vehicles.
Ford Chief Executive Jim Hackett, who took over in May, is leading a review of the automaker’s strategy, including its investments in electric and self-driving vehicles.
The company is already operating Transit vans in an “on-demand” shuttle service called Chariot, which is similar to Uber Technologies Inc’s ride-hailing service, and eventually could outfit those vehicles with self-driving systems.
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Tesla Inc. and some commercial truck makers are trying to develop self-driving trucks. Ford does not make Class 8, long-haul semi trucks, but the company does build light- and medium-duty F-series trucks and Transit vans that commercial customers use to deliver goods.
Ford on Tuesday said it is teaming with Domino’s Pizza to test Michigan consumers’ reactions to having their meals delivered by self-driving vehicles.
It is working with “many other companies” to develop self-driving hardware, while its Pittsburgh-based Argo AI affiliate builds the “virtual driver” software, Marakby said.
Ford still plans to do much of its own systems integration work, he added. Some rival automakers have announced plans to share much of the engineering work and cost. Germany’s BMW , for example, has partnered with Intel Corp., Delphi Automotive and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
“We’re developing the technology and the (customer) interfaces to go to market directly with our partners,” Marakby said. “We’re open to other arrangements in the future.”
There has been an explosion of interest in the past year in the development and potential deployment of self-driving vehicles – from car companies and component suppliers to technology giants and startups, as well as large corporations, universities and municipalities.
(Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Bill Rigby)
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