Ford is pushing back the launch of its forthcoming robotaxi and autonomous delivery services from 2021 to 2022, the company announced today, due to the economic impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Given the challenges of the current business environment, as well as the need to evaluate the long-term impact of COVID-19 on customer behaviors, Ford made the decision to shift the launch of its self-driving services to 2022,” Ford said in a statement to The Verge. The company says it will use the extra time to research “changes in customer behaviors,” which will allow the company to “evaluate and potentially change our go-to-market strategy to be meet new consumer demands.”
Ford says it also wants to “make sure the customer experience we are building offers people peace of mind knowing they, or their packages, are in a safe and protected environment inside our vehicles.” The company says it’s also sticking with its planned launch of the Mustang Mach-E later this year, and a new version of the Bronco as well.
The company has spent the last few years testing self-driving prototypes in Miami, Austin, and Washington, DC as it got ready to launch the services, though it hadn’t made any announcements about in which markets it planned to operate. The pandemic has so far had a mixed impact on the self-driving vehicle industry. Some startups, like Zoox, have cut headcount in a bid to save money, while others, like Nuro and EasyMile, are partnering with the healthcare industry to deliver goods and medical supplies.
Ford announced the delay as it revealed its financial results for the first quarter of 2020, which were brutally impacted by the pandemic. The automaker posted a $2 billion loss for the quarter, after having turned a more than $1 billion profit in the first quarter of 2019.
Earlier in the day, Ford and its luxury brand Lincoln announced they were canceling an upcoming electric SUV that was going to be built using tech from EV startup Rivian — another decision that the companies said was made because of the pandemic.