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DETROIT, Dec. 14, 2021 – Just in time for the holidays, Ford Motor Company, in collaboration with its philanthropic arm, Ford Motor Company Fund, is launching a fresh food delivery pilot in Southwest Detroit deploying specialized autonomous vehicle technology.
Located within the Michigan Central impact area where Ford is putting mobility innovation and community at its forefront, the six-month pilot is one of the first projects bringing the Michigan Central district to life. It is expected to provide 10,000 pounds of fresh food to the doorsteps of senior citizens who lack access to food due to mobility challenges.
Residents of Rio Vista Detroit Co-op Apartments senior living center now will see their existing food deliveries from the complimentary program – Ford Resource and Engagement Center (FREC) on the Go, launched earlier this year by Ford Fund and Gleaners Community Food Bank – double in the coming weeks as they receive an additional shipment of groceries through the pilot. The program and pilot are essential to more than 20 Rio Vista residents who have already opted-in to this complimentary service as a reliable way to receive their groceries without needing to secure transportation.
“We’re constantly thinking about how to expand our reach in communities for those who don’t have access to the most basic goods, like groceries or warm meals,” said Joe Provenzano, mobility director, Ford Motor Company Fund. “Bringing Ford’s mobility expertise together with local collaborations allows us to create innovative solutions that make communities stronger and people’s lives better.”
Ford Fund and Gleaners have distributed 2.4 million pounds of food through the delivery program and Ford Resource and Engagement Centers. Participants currently receive a mix of dry and canned goods plus fresh produce, including milk and cheese. Now, Rio Vista residents will receive another delivery each month containing additional fresh produce and milk. The items were determined based on feedback from residents who are already participating, and will be reevaluated throughout the pilot.
“CSI and Rio Vista Detroit Co-op are incredibly excited for this collaboration with Ford Motor Company,” said Eric Finkler, co-op liaison, Rio Vista Detroit. “For many seniors in this community, access to transportation is integral for retaining their independence, and the automated vehicle delivery program will help expand our members’ access to groceries, easing one barrier to independent living. Our hope is that with one less thing to worry about, our members can focus on family, coordinating doctor visits, handling day-to-day responsibilities, and spending time on things that they enjoy – like volunteering!”
The pilot will utilize a low-speed autonomous shuttle operated by the Ford future tech autonomous vehicle team and Quantum Signal AI, a wholly owned Ford subsidiary. It will run along a fixed route between the Southwest Detroit Ford Resource and Engagement Center, where bags will be loaded, taken to Rio Vista, where groceries will be unloaded and distributed to participating residents.
A safety driver will be inside the shuttle at all times, and be monitored by a remote operations team that can also intervene if needed. The pilot vehicle has been upfitted by Ford’s experience design team for efficient packing and transit of fresh food items and for easy loading and unloading.
An exterior design on the shuttle representing the Southwest Detroit neighborhood, created by Detroit School of Arts 12th-grader Brooke Snow, displays an inclusive message of community. Snow plans to use the $5,000 she was awarded for her design to pay for college expenses.
“Creating mobility experiences centered around people and being inclusive is at the forefront of our thinking as we design future services,” said Robert Moser, global head of experience design, Ford Motor Company. “By collaborating with the community and showcasing this artwork throughout the duration of the pilot, it conveys how we are thinking about building services that make people’s lives better for all – not just one specific group.”
Ford is researching a variety of mobility solutions in and around Michigan Central, an innovation district located in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood. Through this grocery delivery pilot, the company aims to learn the best methods for future autonomous goods delivery – from both a technical and experiential standpoint, including how to meet the needs of people living in underserved communities.
Ford Fund manages the Southwest Detroit Ford Resource and Engagement Center, which opened its doors in 2013. The community space functions as a gathering spot for residents to develop new talents and learn new skills, while providing access to essential services. For more information on the Ford Resource and Engagement Center on the Go program and zip code eligibility, call 313.806.0370.