For the first time, a 2021 Ford F-150 has been seen publicly testing self-driving hardware. Ford has been actively involved in autonomous vehicle testing for years. Could the brand be vying for a place in the self-driving commercial space? Setting one of America’s best-selling pickups on the path to full autonomy opens up many exciting possibilities.
The first self-driving F-150 is in the works
A 2021 Ford F-150 was recently seen test driving while fitted with a roof-top self-driving rig. The hardware resembled Argo AI’s self-driving system. It’s unclear if the rig was affiliated with Argo AI or if it’s part of an initiative of Ford’s.
Both the 2021 F-150 and Mustang Mach E will feature a new hands-free driving feature called BlueCruise. BlueCruise is a lower-level self-driving system. It allows drivers to remove their hands from the wheel during safe highway driving conditions. These are known as blue zones. Could Ford be testing out an advanced version of the BlueCruise system that would require this hardware? Details are light for now, but as Ford continues to push forward into the autonomous space, more will come to light.
Ford’s relationship with Argo AI
In 2017 Ford partnered with self-driving technology startup Argo AI to integrate some Ford Focus and Ford Explorer models with their self-driving systems. In 2018 Ford and Argo AI began testing autonomous vehicles in 6 U.S. cities and Munich, Germany.
Ford has been actively developing self-driving technology since 2018. For three years, the automaker has been testing a commercial autonomous service pilot program in Miami through its subsidiary Argo AI. Recently the automaker announced plans to build a command center for the Argo AI program next to Miami International Airport. The business will open for passengers in March 2022. So far, both the Ford Escape and the Ford Fusion have served in this pilot fleet. Could the F-150 join this list?
In preparation for the launch of Ford’s self-driving commercial service, smart infrastructure features have been installed around Miami. The most recent installation placed several safety nodes at critical intersections around the city. Safety nodes provide data from camera feeds, radar, and lidar to provide self-driving cars with more information.
When will self-driving cars hit the streets?
In short, self-driving cars are already on the street every day and have been for years. Bloomberg reported in 2020 that several automakers had planned to put autonomous taxis on the road by 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic put those plans on hold for Tesla, GM, and other brands. As of now, Waymo is the only company employing self-driving taxis in the U.S.
Waymo sprouted from the Google self-driving car project in 2009. The company offers a ride-hailing service to the Phoenix Metropolitan area. Waymo also offers a commercial trucking service to transport goods without the need for a driver.
Companies like Waymo and Argo AI have proven the self-driving car concept. Commuters are ready to trust the service. Corporations are eager to reduce expenses in trucking, and both applications are safer with AI behind the wheel. Will autonomous taxi customers have access to a self-driving pickup like the Ford F-150?