Ford is working with AV developer Argo AI to expand its self-driving research efforts and deploy autonomous test vehicles on the streets of Austin, Texas. Austin will become Ford’s third test site following deployments in Miami-Dade County, Florida and Washington DC.
Austin is reportedly the first city in the USA to have permitted AV testing on public highways in an effort to find a solution to future traffic problems. For the last eight years, Austin has been ranked as the fastest-growing metro region in America, according to the US Census Bureau, and that growth has affected how Austinites travel throughout the city. As such, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization predicts that vehicle use in the Austin region could double by 2040, while highway capacity will only grow 15%.
Ford and Austin officials therefore believe that self-driving vehicles can form part of a comprehensive mobility solution by providing wider access to transportation and more efficient goods delivery.
“Almost 75% of Austinites commute by driving alone in personal vehicles,” said Austin mayor Steve Adler. “This is simply unsustainable. Our 20-year goal is for at least 50% of people to take advantage of other transportation options, like buses or bicycles. With our region’s population on track to double in the next 20 to 25 years, it’s clear we need to re-think how our right-of-way is used if we want people to be able to move around our city. That’s why it’s exciting that Ford is bringing its self-driving vehicle operations to our city. As noted in our Smart Mobility Roadmap, self-driving vehicles offer the potential to expand mobility options for all our residents and present opportunities to increase the capacity of our existing transportation system.”
Peter Rander, president of Argo AI, added, “Over the coming months, our vehicles will be manually driven through east Austin as well as downtown, mapping the city’s main corridors in preparation for autonomous testing. Eventually we will expand beyond these areas, but these initial mapping trips help us develop a comprehensive understanding of the environment around our vehicles.”