Ford has become the first automaker approved to get the go ahead for testing self-driving cars in Washington, D.C. Partnering with company Argo AI, Ford already has vehicles mapping the streets.
Announcing its plans Ford revealed that it will build a hub in the northeast quadrant of the city, Ward 5, and test its self-driving tech throughout the district. CNN reports state that the automaker will begin implementing the project this year and start testing its fleet of vehicles in early 2019which will expand to areas including the downtown core. The District of Columbia is a bold choice for this pilot program simply because of its road designs and traffic patterns. The district has at least a dozen major traffic circles with adjoining diagonal roads. Then there’s the heavy traffic throughout the district and its suburbs of Maryland and Virginia.
Retro Ford Mustang will run first autonomous Goodwood Hill Climb-The test programme in all eight Washington, D.C. district wards will join other Ford autonomous car tests in Detroit, Pittsburgh and Miami.
Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC CEO Sherif Marakby says that the self-driving car project will be one that helps society. It will achieve this in ways such as filling gaps in public transportation. The project is already creating jobs directly: Ford wants to train Washington, D.C. locals as vehicle operators, to monitor and operate the test vehicles both on public streets and closed courses. Ford’s artificial intelligence partner, Argo AI, will train city residents at the D.C. Infrastructure Academy, preparing them for jobs on the autonomous tech track.
“We’re fortunate to be working with Mayor Bowser,” said Marakby. “She and her administration have been strong supporters of new mobility initiatives, with a track record of leadership on autonomous technology.”
Food delivery bots are already being tested in Washington, D.C. and the capital city is set to become a test bed for self-driving vehicles and connected technology. “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.
“A few years ago I was thinking we were getting behind the curve on this autonomous vehicle technology,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser told WTOP.
“We’re not assuming autonomous vehicles are going to take over or anything,” Sherif Marakby, Ford’s president of autonomous vehicles said. “We need to understand, where do [autonomous vehicles] fit? Hopefully they’ll fit someplace. We believe they will.”
Mayor Bowser admitted there are challenges with safety and implementation. “It is possible that we’ll find that it’s not a fit for our city, and that’s what this test phase is all about,” she said.
Currently, Ford uses test drivers in its semi-autonomous vehicles because fully autonomous vehicles are still a thing of the future in terms of implementation. Level 5 autonomy is what many companies strive for but is not yet available.