Ford Motor Company’s in-house futurist has started in-depth meetings with U.S. city leaders to try and forecast how shared, autonomous vehicles might affect daily life and what infrastructure, regulations, and other things need to be put into place before widespread adoption. A few highlights from a Washington Post story on the effort:

  • “‘Somewhere along the way, we had the obvious, but latent, idea that we need to build cars that people want. I think cities have the same thing,’ [Ford Futurist Sheryl] Connelly said, adding that urban planning has become one of the world’s most influential jobs.”
  • “Ford will begin testing self-driving vehicles in the District early this year, with plans to launch them commercially in Washington, Miami and other cities in 2021. Waymo began rolling out a commercial robo-taxi service in suburban Phoenix in early December, and autonomous shuttles are coming to cities from Youngstown, Ohio, to Jacksonville, Fla.”
  • “As District [of Columbia] officials put it, they don’t want to be stuck ‘making 100-year decisions for technology that is changing in 10 years.'”
  • “More recently, the company shifted toward a strategy of not only selling cars, but moving people. Ford is making a five-year, $1 billion investment in the self-driving start-up Argo AI to help build the foundation for autonomous ride-sharing and delivery businesses, and it is growing its shared-van service, Chariot.”
  • “Self-driving vehicles are just one piece of the bigger picture facing cities, as they try to balance immediate concerns with futuristic ones. That means fixing roads and bridges and finding ways to slow drivers at dangerous intersections, while also focusing on what infrastructure might be needed for the future and what information should be collected and shared as roads, and the people on them, are tied together through digital networks.”

A big priority, the article says, is designing systems and structures that can change very quickly, either with the technology itself or if what experts predict now ends up not being reality.

Read the whole article here.