Ford has announced that plans to launch a driverless taxi service have shifted from 2021 to 2022, due to the coronavirus pandemic putting a halt to testing.
Mentioned as part of its first quarter financial results this week, the news shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Despite eventually not requiring a driver, the cars for now are generally tested with two people sat in the front seats - something that can't happen due to the current social distancing measures in place.
Until now, Ford had been testing two aspects of an autonomous vehicle business. Firstly it, like many others, has been working on the self-driving technology itself, along with Argo AI, into which it invested $1 billion in 2017.
Ford has also been working on what an autonomous car business would actually look like, via trials with Walmart and Domino's. The eventual plan was for a taxi service, but also for autonomous deliveries from such outlets.
While the coronavirus has put a stop to autonomous vehicle testing, the pandemic has also caused Ford to look at the long term effects, and at whether the services it planned will even be wanted in a couple of year's time.
The vehicles were due to be commercially available by 2021Ford / Argo
Jim Farley, chief operating officer, said during the Tuesday earnings call: "We believe this pandemic could affect our customers' lives and work for many years to come, with zero touch as an integral part of their lives going forward, perhaps spurring on even more interest in adoption of autonomy especially goods delivery and micro mobility."
In a statement, Ford added: "Taking the time to research changes in customer behavior provides Ford with an opportunity to evaluate and potentially change our go-to-market strategy to meet new consumer demands."