An experimental autonomous vehicle of Ford Motor Co. is seen at a Walmart store. (Ford Motor Co. via Jiji Press/The Japan News/File)
Ford Motor Co., Walmart Inc. and delivery service Postmates Inc. will collaborate to design a service for delivering groceries and other goods to Walmart customers that could someday use autonomous vehicles, the companies said on Wednesday.
The project is the latest to grow out of Ford’s broader effort to develop businesses that could use automated delivery vehicles. Ford was working with San Francisco-based Postmates already to develop delivery services that could employ automated vehicles.
The Walmart pilot initially will use human-driven vehicles operated to simulate how a self-driving vehicle would behave, Ford said. Ford has said it expects to launch commercial production of automated vehicles by 2021.
Ford and its partners are using Miami as a testing ground for automated delivery service ideas and automated vehicle technology.
The new pilot project will offer customers delivery by Postmates of goods ordered at Walmart stores. Brian Wolf, an executive of Ford’s autonomous vehicle unit, wrote in a blog post that the companies will work over the next “couple of months” to figure out what goods can be delivered successfully, especially perishable groceries.
That could require new designs or equipment for vehicles, Wolf wrote. Among the challenges Ford has said it is working on is designing on-board storage systems that are easy for customers to open to retrieve a pizza or a package.
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