Austin will become Ford’s third market to test self-driving vehicles, the company announced Wednesday. The company cited the region’s fast growth and history of innovation as reasons for choosing Austin.
“Ford and Austin officials believe self-driving vehicles can be part of a comprehensive solution that addresses the city’s mobility challenges, including providing wider access to transportation and more efficient goods delivery,” Sherif Marakby, CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC, said. “For years, Austin has been a huge proponent of transportation innovation, becoming the first city in the world to host a driverless vehicle on public streets.”
Ford will work with tech firm Argo AI to start mapping Austin’s streets and gather data about mobility. The company plans to grow its fleet in Austin over the next year, with testing beginning in East Austin and downtown.
The company says it hopes to partner with businesses, nonprofit organizations and government entities to learn more about how self-driving vehicles could help the region.
“I’m excited to see how the application of autonomous vehicles helps us with health care delivery in a city where we don’t equitably distribute health care, in part because so much of our city can’t get to where the health care exists,” Mayor Steve Adler said during a news conference announcing Ford's decision. “I’m excited to see what this could for schools and opportunities for children in our city. I’m excited for what this could do for jobs in our city.”
Both officials with Ford and the city said safe operation of the vehicles is a top priority during the testing. The city said it also hopes to eventually use the data collected by Ford to help reduce traffic injuries and fatalities.
“One of the things that Ford is interested in, for instance, is the ability for their vehicles to communicate with our infrastructure, so that they’re more aware,” said Jason JonMichael, an assistant director with the Austin Transportation Department. “These are kind of the things that the City of Austin is interested in partnering with private sector companies to help bring about truly meaningful municipal solutions for residents and doing so in a safe and pragmatic way.”
Austin will join Miami and Washington, D.C., as markets where Ford is testing autonomous vehicles.
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