Ford to Trial AVs in DC

Ford is to roll out an autonomous vehicle service in Washington DC, in what it’s claiming will be a first for the city.

Sherif Marakby, CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles, the automaker’s newly spun off AV unit, has written in a blog post that it’s extending its vehicle trials in Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Miami to the US capital. He claimed the vehicles would “be deployed in an equitable way … and in a way that promotes job creation”. He also claimed they would fill “gaps in access to public transportation”.

Marakby went on to write that Ford is partnering with civic officials and Argo AI on the trials, with a view to deploying AVs commercially in the city in 2021. Argo will apparently be responsible for mapping the city’s streets, while Ford will collaborate with mayor Muriel Bowser’s DC Infrastructure Academy to train local residents for jobs as AV operators and technicians.

Marakby added that the automaker has “established an autonomous vehicle operations terminal” in the city. He is situating the move as an extension of Ford’s claims that it wants AVs developed carefully and safely, and with a fair degree of involvement from Washington’s lawmakers.

However, it is possible that the real motivation behind the announcement is a desire to forestall further accusations that the automaker does not wish to create jobs for Americans from the US capital’s most powerful resident. Last month, President Donald Trump attacked Ford for declining to import its Chinese-produced Focus Active vehicle into the US. Ford said the decision not to was made in direct response to the tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminium and 25% taxes on Chinese-imported automobiles that Trump has introduced as part of his trade war with the latter country.


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