Ford partners with Postmates on self-driving delivery pilot

Ford has a new partner for its autonomous vehicle program: Postmates. The on-demand delivery service provider is working with the automaker through its self-driving vehicle platform, in a similar way to existing partner Domino’s Pizza. Postmates is the first on-demand delivery app to work with Ford in this capacity, and will test with the platform this year, including in a pilot in a new city to be announced later by Ford where it will test and eventually launch a self-driving vehicle fleet.

Ford’s Jim Varley, EVP and President of Global Markets, announced the news during the automaker’s keynote address at CES 2018 in Las Vegas. In a blog post, Ford VP of autonomous vehicles and electrification Sherif Marakby also revealed that part of the motivation behind the partnership is to help find ways to drive benefits for small businesses who might otherwise find it hard to compete with larger operations with their own delivery mechanisms.

It could also help brick-and-mortar businesses broaden their reach, Marakby argues, providing them with a way to grow beyond storefront traffic.

The program is designed to help identify how Postmates can properly integrate with Ford’s autonomous driving platform from a technical perspective, but it will also allow them to test things like user interface, interaction models and customer experience for autonomous on-demand delivery.

Ford and Postmates are going to be working together on multiple pilot programs throughout the year. Likely, as with Domino’s, different stages of the program will focus on testing for different specific aspects of the overall experience.

This kind of partnership and testing should help Ford’s autonomous fleet launch on its best footing when it eventually hits commercial availability. Ford will own and operate its fleet of AVs, but partners like Postmates will offer the service layer that will deliver goods and things like ride-sharing to consumers.