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Austin Will Be Third City To Test Ford’s Self-Driving Cars

Ford Motor Company has chosen Austin, Texas as another city to test out and deploy self-driving vehicles, according to a report by CNBC.

The company wants to get the business off the ground by 2021. Ford, along with its tech partner Argo AI, will start using the technology to map the city beginning in the middle of November. It will perform data validation and on-road testing this year.

Previous cities also chosen were Miami-Dade County in South Florida and Washington, D.C., with tentative plans to launch fully in those cities by 2021 as well.

Sherif Marakby, CEO of Ford’s autonomous vehicle unit, said there were two main reasons Austin was chosen. First, the city displayed a willingness to work with Ford and second, the population in the city is growing and becoming more congested.

“With increased traffic, we think we can solve some issues and work with the city on understanding what the challenges are in the city,” Marakby said.

The first iteration of self-driving vehicles will have “test specialists” who will actually drive the cars. Once all the data collection and mapping is completed, Ford will move on to the self-driving phase.

“The integration, safely, of the technology is going to take a few more years, and we’re all-in to drive the integration and the technology and, in parallel, work on the business,” Marakby said. “We’re sticking with our plan.”

Ford aims to launch a new model of vehicle for autonomous driving, without steering wheels or pedals. The fleet will focus on “moving people and goods.”

Other companies have taken a different approach. For example, GM’s Cruise and Alphabet’s Waymo have both been concentrating on single cities.

Marakby said that while patience is key, launching in multiple cities will help the company grow more quickly.

“The challenge with doing this in only one city and perfecting it [is that] it’s harder to scale, and we think scaling is key,” he noted.

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