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Ford’s self-driving cars are first to hit Washington D.C. roads



Washington, D.C., is tracking more than politics. As of Monday, the nation’s capital has its first self-driving cars on city streets. 

Ford is expanding its autonomous vehicle testing from Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Miami to the D.C. area. But that self-driving Domino’s pizza delivery service is still only in Miami — for now.

With Argo AI, the company will map the city and collect data about driving around the city ahead of a 2021 goal for a commercial self-driving car service.

Ford’s arrival marks an industry-wide expansion from the “usual” testing grounds. The roads of California, Arizona, Texas, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have hosted self-driving cars for years. Ohio, Florida, and other states recently have become new test spots.

In D.C., residents and workers can expect two safety operators in the front seats of different cars including Ford Fusion sedans loaded with sensors and cameras. It’s not a truly driverless experience, but the cars are noticeably self-driving vehicles and marked as Ford test cars.

Self-driving cars are testing out the D.C. scene.

Self-driving cars are testing out the D.C. scene.

Ford says it’s starting with “modest” sized fleet and will grow more next year.

In a blog post Monday, Ford Autonomous Vehicles CEO Sherif Marakby said that its Washington, D.C., presence should encourage government acceptance and better policy-making around autonomous vehicles.

“it’s important that lawmakers see self-driving vehicles with their own eyes,” he wrote.

The U.S. Department of Transportation released its latest federal guidance for AVs earlier this month. A bill that would introduce standards for autonomous vehicle testing, the Senate’s AV START Act, is languishing more than a year after the House passed a companion bill.

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