The Lincoln MKZ Is Dead, but It’s Still Good for Driverless Testing

Discontinued after the 2020 model year, the Lincoln MKZ sedan fell out of favor with consumers and received mixed reviews from industry experts. With SUVs’ rise and sedans’ decline, the MKZ’s demise isn’t a big surprise. But one Chinese company is putting this now-defunct Lincoln model to good use.

The Lincoln MKZ’s demise

The Lincoln MKZ is a comfortable luxury sedan for cruising. The base engine is an unimpressive four-cylinder, the team at Car and Driver points out. But you could get all-wheel drive, a peppy turbocharged V6, or a hybrid powertrain with great fuel-efficiency. Its interior is posh and packed with plentiful convenience and driver-assist features.

The folks at Car and Driver point out they like the 2020 MKZ’s turbo V6 engine. It offers 350 hp with the front-wheel-drive configuration and 400 hp with all-wheel drive. They explain the V6 with AWD is a better setup because the aggressive throttle’s inputs pulled on the front wheels with the FWD model.

Consumer Reports gives the 2020 Lincoln MKZ an overall 89 out of 100 and recommends the midsize sedan. It performed well on CR’s road test and scored a high predicted reliability rating from the consumer site. 

But the Lincoln MKZ lacked one important thing. It didn’t garner enough sales needed to convince the automaker it needed to stay.

The Lincoln MKZ’s role in driverless testing

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Chinese search engine Baidu has gotten into the autonomous-vehicle game. In fact, it has 500 self-driving cars, Reuters reports. The company has been conducting tests in China and the United States with safety drivers.

The Chinese company also operates a robotaxi service in Beijing and Cangzhou, in the Hebei Province. The service is open to the public and always includes a safety driver behind the wheel.

But Baidu, which recently entered the arena of autonomous cars, also says it’s testing self-driving vehicles on public streets in Changsha in the Hunan Province. The cars in these tests don’t have a driver behind the wheel. The company also received a license to test driverless cars in Beijing, Reuters reports. 

According to California’s Department of Motor Vehicles, it recently issued the company a permit to test self-driving cars in that state. The California DMV says that “the new permit allows the company to test three autonomous vehicles without a driver behind the wheel on specified streets within Sunnyvale, located in Santa Clara County.”

And one of those vehicles is the Lincoln MKZ hybrid.

Going a step further

Baidu is the sixth and latest company California is allowing to conduct driverless testing in Sunnyvale. Reuters reoprts that Baidu will use two cars: the Chrysler Pacifica minivan and the Lincoln MKZ sedan.

Because it’s new to the game, Baidu offered its Apollo software for free to anyone who wishes to use it, much as Google did with its Android operating system for smartphones. According to MIT Technology Review, the company hopes to elevate China’s AI innovation profile on the world stage. Apollo 1.0 debuted in July 2017, and Baidu began testing Apollo-running cars on public roads later that year.

Baidu hopes that companies using its Apollo software, including Lincoln’s owner, Ford, will contribute data for its use much like an open-source platform. In the meantime, Lincoln MKZ hybrid models are in service for the company’s self-driving tests with safety drivers and soon without them.

All things considered, self-driving cars aren’t yet ready or available for safe private transportation. Though testing continues and shows great promise, autonomous vehicles remain a thing of the future.