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Ford Delays Robo-Taxi Launch

Coronavirus pushes plans back to 2022
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In the summer of 2018, Ford set a bold target for fully autonomous vehicles. The company vowed to launch commercial applications of driverless cars—without a steering wheel or foot pedals—by 2021.

Granted, initial applications were to be limited to robo-taxis and autonomous delivery services in geo-fenced areas. But Ford stuck to the 2021 timeline—even as overall industry enthusiasm and hype waned—and ramped up real-world testing of the technology in six U.S. cities over the last two years to make it happen.

COVID-19 Push Back

The coronavirus has forced Ford to reevaluate its plans. The carmaker now says it won’t offer commercial autonomous vehicle services until at least 2022.

Ford detailed its evolving strategy during its latest quarterly financial update. The company notes that it will take time to understand how COVID-19 will impact consumer behavior regarding new mobility services.

“We believe this pandemic could affect our customers’ lives and work for many years to come, with zero touch as an integral part of their lives going forward,” COO Jim Farley said on a conference call with investors. He suggests that such concerns could even hasten the adoption of autonomous vehicles for delivery services and micro-mobility.

For now, Ford appears to be erring on the side of caution.

"As part of this evaluation, we also want to make sure the customer experience we are building offers people peace of mind knowing they, or their packages, are in a safe and protected environment inside our vehicles," the company states.

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