Ford Motor Co on Tuesday said it will partner with delivery service Postmates Inc as the automaker starts later this year testing in a U.S. city how to transport people, food and packages using its self-driving cars.
Ford's plans challenge the ambitions of ride services companies like Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] and highlight how automakers and those with roots in the tech industry are forging separate paths to build businesses enabled by self-driving cars.
While Ford has a partnership with ride-hailing company Lyft, the automaker is focusing on moving goods itself for businesses large and small, Jim Farley, president of global markets, and Sherif Marakby, Ford's head of autonomous and electric vehicle development told Reuters in an interview.
"We're testing the business model" for goods delivery, Farley said. Initially, Ford plans to use vehicles with human drivers to test how to run services that would eventually use automated vehicles.
Ford will expand delivery partners beyond Dominos Pizza and San Francisco-based Postmates, Farley said. The automaker sees small businesses as a significant potential market and a natural next step after decades of catering to commercial van and pickup buyers, he said.
In an address at the CES technology conference in Las Vegas, Farley outlined a concept for self-driving vehicles to pick up and deliver packages from multiple small businesses on a single trip. The key for making profit, Farley said, is keeping the cars moving.
"Any time you are not carrying goods or people in this business you are not making money," Farley said.
The automaker has not named the city where it will begin testing its approach.
Ford intends to power its self-driving cars with plug-in hybrid systems that rely on petroleum-fueled engines to extend range and power the electronics needed for automated driving, Farley and Marakby said.
RELATED: Check out Ford automobiles through the years:
Ford automobiles through the years
Ford automobiles through the years
Henry Ford in his First Passenger Automobile, Quadricycle, First Built in 1896, USA, circa 1903. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
Henry Ford seated in his first Ford automobile on Grand Boulevard, Detroit in September of 1896.
ORIGINAL CAPTION READS: Three-quarter view of a 1908 Model T Ford. Undated photograph.
A well-dressed African-American couple stand by their 1909 Ford Touring car in Southern California. (Photo by Jonathan Kirn/Corbis via Getty Images)
The Ford factory, Manchester, c1911. Lines of Model Ts, off the production line. (Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
Ford Motor Company Advertisement Featuring the Big Four Automobiles, circa 1909. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
Sir Harry Lauder sits proudly in his 1914 Ford Model T 'sporty' touring car which sold for $550, complete with equipment.
Making the bodies for Model T Fords, 1915. Factory workers on the production line completing upholstery for the seats. A sack of stuffing lies on the floor. (Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
The family gather in and on the running board of their automobile. (Photo by Jonathan Kirn/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) View of a Ford touring car with passengers, 1923.
Actors ZaSu Pitts and Ford Sterling pose for this still from the 1927 version of Casey at the Bat. Pitts played the role of Camille, and Sterling played the role of O'Dowd.
1928: American inventor and industrialist Henry Ford (1863 - 1947) and his son, automobile executive Edsel Ford (1893 - 1943), sit in 'The Fifteenth Millionth Ford'. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) 1929- Picture shows a Ford Town Car. Cloche hatted model is sitting on the running board.
Photo of an early Ford automobile. Ca. 1900s.
The Lincoln was, and still is, one of the luxury cars of the Ford Motor Company.
(Original Caption) 1928- Picture shows the 1928 Ford model A automobile.
G Kinsey-Morgan's Ford Model C Ten, winner of a silver award at the MCC Torquay Rally, July 1937. Ford 10 1172 cc. Vehicle Reg. No. CLJ617. Event Entry No: 84 Driver: Kinsey-Morgan, G. Award: Silver. Place: M.C.C. Torquay Rally. Date: 16/17.7.37. Artist Bill Brunell. (Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
Ford's 1955 Thunderbird features all steel convenience and safety with high performance. It has roll up windows, a telescopic steering column, and is available as either a hard top or a convertible.
Replacing the Boss 429 and Boss 302, the 1971 Boss 351 Mustang features a competition suspension package and a potent 351-cubic-inch Cleveland engine.
1978-Ford Motor Company's Country Squire Station Wagon.
Man inspects a new Ford Motors Company car that has just come off the final assembly line.
(Original Caption) 11/10/50-Dearborn, Michigan: The custom four-door Sedan, featuring Fordomatic drive, has new refinements in styling to emphasize distinctive body lines. The new models have a dual spinner radiator grille, long wraparound bumpers and new ornamentation.
LOS ANGELES,CA - CIRCA 1954: Actress Lori Nelson poses in her Ford Thunderbird car at home in Los Angeles,CA. (Photo by Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
circa 1955: A suburban family waving as they pull out of a driveway in a packed late 1950s model Ford Country Squire station wagon. (Photo by Lambert/Getty Images)
A 1955 Ford Consul Convertible MK 1. The first post-war cars from Dagenham were almost identical to pre-war models, but the 1951 'Five Star Car' Consul/Zephyr range was revolutionary. With American-styled unitary bodies scaled down for European markets, the cars featured new independent front suspension by Earle MacPherson. Convertibles, which accounted for less than 2% of production, were developed by Carbodies of Coventry in 1953. Both the Consul and 6 cylinder Zephyr were popular among fleet users and hire companies. Ford production in Britain, began in a converted tram factory in Manchester in 1911, transferring to the purpose-built Dagenham factory in 1931. (Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
View of a 1959 Ford Thunderbird motor car, its convertible roof in the down position, parked outside on a grassy field, 1959. (Photo by FPG/Getty Images)
DAYTONA BEACH, FL â February 1957: Driving this 1957 Ford for car owner Pete DePaolo, Marvin Panch finished fifth in the NASCAR Cup race on the Daytona Beach-Road Course. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)
A 1958 Edsel convertible made by Ford, 1958. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
View of a 1965 Ford Thunderbird motor car parked on a rotating floor in a showroom, 1963. (Photo by FPG/Getty Images)
On the beach, a group of young men and women lean or sit on a mid-60s Ford Mustang convertible (either a 1964, 1965, or 1966 model), which sports mid-1960s California plates (1963 - 1969), as they listen to a woman play an acoustic guitar, mid 1960s. There are a numebr of surfboards propped against the car. (Photo by Tom Kelley/Getty Images)
A young man washes the family Ford Anglia car on an Essex estate in the early nineteen sixties. Bending down to wring a leather dry into a bucket the young man cleans his father's beloved Anglia in the street outside the family house which interestingly, is otherwise empty of other cars. This is the new age of car ownership when newfound wealth meant families could afford to buy a vehicle and travel elsewhere after the war years of 1950s austerity. The Ford Anglia is a British car designed and manufactured by Ford in the United Kingdom. The Ford Anglia name was applied to four models of car between 1939 and 1967. 1,594,486 Anglias were produced. The picture was recorded on Kodachrome (Kodak) film in about 1961. (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)
30th May 1975: The car assembly line for vans at Ford. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)
Ronald and Nancy with their new Ford Ranger pick up, in their Californian ranch 'Rancho del Cielo'. (Photo by jean-Louis Atlan/Sygma via Getty Images)
CIRENCESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 30: Princess Diana At Cirencester Polo Club With Her Maroon Red Ford Escort Cabriolet Car (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
The Newly Designed 35Th 1999 Anniversary Edition Ford Mustang. (Photo By Getty Images)
2002 Ford Mustang Bullitt driving on country road, 2000. (Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
384022 08: FILE PHOTO: Ford''s new fuel-efficient hybrid electric (HEV) concept Escape SUV vehicle sits in a showroom January 4, 2001 in Los Angeles during its debut at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show. The newest version of Ford Motor Co.''s popular Escape sport utility vehicle reportedly earned low marks in crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, April 23, 2001. (Photo by Ford/Newsmakers)
394154 02: (FILE PHOTO) A 2000 Ford Windstar minivan is seen in this undated photo. Ford announced September 6, 2001 that it had sent more than 750,000 recall letters to owners of 1999-2001 model Windstars after reports that the minivan's windshield wiper motor could potentially catch fire. Ford said that small holes in the system could allow water, salt and debris to clog the motor and ignite a fire. (Photo by Ford/Getty Images)
2005: Ford Freestyle SUV. (Photo by John B. Carnett/Bonnier Corporation via Getty Images)
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But top California clean air regulator Mary Nichols had tweeted her objection to that plan last month.
"Earth to Ford: what part of sustainability do you not understand?" Nichols had tweeted. "Driverless hybrid vehicles running 24/7 delivering pizza and passengers means more tons of pollution/GHGs in cities!"
Marakby and Farley said the power demands from computers and sensors can cut the range of an all-electric self-driving car by half. Ford does not plan to use full electric systems until the second generation of its self-driving vehicles, Marakby said.
General Motors Co has trained its resources on developing self-driving, all-electric vehicles for use as taxis in big cities. GM has said it will begin launching robo-taxi services in cities by 2019.
Waymo, Alphabet Inc's self-driving car unit, is launching its first public tests in the suburbs of Phoenix. Waymo is currently using hybrid minivans built by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV .
Toyota Motor Corp on Monday used the backdrop of the CES technology show here to outline plans to develop services for moving goods and people, and showed a prototype of a multi-purpose self-driving vehicle called e‐Palette that it intends to begin testing in the early 2020s.
Ford has said it will launch its own self-driving vehicles by 2021.
(Reporting By Joseph White; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)