Ford Ramps Up Self-Driving Plans With New Partnerships, Business Model

Ford CEO Jim Hackett speaking at CES

Ford CEO Jim Hackett speaking at CES

Ford already has 700,000 connected vehicles on the road and by next year, every new vehicle it makes for the United States will be connected.

The presentation was light on details and heavy on vision, indicating Ford may have wanted to benefit from the excitement around autonomous transportation despite not having made significant progress on a self-driving vehicle.

In addition to new partner Postmates, Ford will be testing further with existing partners Lyft and Domino's, and already it's gleaned some insights from the latter two, including learning that many of its early users of the Domino's autonomous delivery service say "bye" to the driverless auto and enjoy interacting with its voice powered instructions interface. On-demand autonomous delivery vehicles will help "loosen the grip of geography" and help small businesses serve a wider array of customers, Marakby said.

Ford intends to power its self-driving cars with plug-in hybrid systems that rely on petroleum-fueled engines to extend range and power the electronics needed for automated driving, Farley and Marakby said. The news was unveiled at CES 2018 in Las Vegas. The two companies will specifically focus on how both merchants and customers react to the use of autonomous vehicles. "It puts us in a great position to scale quickly" for the robotaxi business Ford plans to launch by 2021, Farley said.

Ford has announced a partnership with chipmaker Qualcomm to push the adoption of cellular vehicle-to-everything technology (C-V2X).

Ford revs up self-driving car and smart city plans

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As the potential for self-driving vehicles moves closer to becoming a reality, Ford is lagging behind rivals, like Tesla and General Motors, that are aggressively testing autonomous vehicles and may have a lead in getting one to market. However, Postmates Fresh was the company's first official foray into grocery store partnerships.

But since then, Ford's self-driving ambitions have been overshadowed by the perception that GM leads in the future of cars.

Ford's early partners for its AV service platform include Domino's, Lyft, and, as of today, Postmates.

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