Ford has been dabbling in the autonomous vehicle (AV) market for quite a while now, and things are just now getting to the point where the auto manufacturer is ready to take its AV tech to the next level.

Austin, Texas has been slated as the ‘test’ city for a new program involving hundreds of Ford-built autonomous vehicles. What will these vehicles do, exactly? Well, Ford is considering numerous avenues, one of them is a driverless taxi service that would compete with companies like Uber and Lyft.

The Driverless Future of Austin

Ford hopes to be able to start offering this unique taxi service by the year 2021. In the meantime, there is no shortage of preparation required to ensure that the program goes off without a hitch.

A company called Argo AI, based in Pittsburgh, is working with Ford to develop a virtual driver platform that will use high-resolution maps and advanced artificial intelligence to create one of the most advanced driverless fleets on the planet. Pretty soon, getting around Austin is going to become driverless.

So, how much will all of this cost? The budget for this program – currently planned through the year 2023 – is a whopping $4 billion. Thankfully for Ford, this cost will include a lot of one-time capital expenses that won’t need to be incurred once the program is off and running. Part of these expenses also includes a light maintenance facility which will employ local Austinites, so that they can keep the driverless Ford cars running smoothly.

Driverless USA

The Ford Corktown Campus in Detroit is currently where Ford is doing much of its research and development related to driverless automobiles. Soon, once the Austin program has its feet underneath it, more and more data will be made available to Ford, driving yet more frontier-busting research.

Once the Austin program has been vetted for success, Ford does have plans to extend their driverless fleets into other, larger cities throughout the United States. Though this may take years and not months, the current rate of development is astounding, especially considering how safe driverless cars must be made to be in order to operate effectively.

How far will the expansion go? Are you destined to begin seeing driverless vehicles zooming around on the highways and byways in your city? Who knows – perhaps the next Uber you hail will show up without a human being in it. Welcome to the driverless future!