Ford becomes first automaker to test self-driving cars in Washington, D.C.

Ford on Monday said that it will test its autonomous vehicle technology at the federal government’s doorstep in Washington, D.C. Ford also evaluates its experimental technology in Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Miami.

According to a post by the company on Medium, the intent of the program is to study how autonomous vehicles can be deployed across D.C. neighborhoods “in a way that promises job creation” and “a chance to make it more affordable for people to get to jobs by filling gaps in access to public transportation.”

The end goal is to deploy a commercial service by 2021 that serves all of D.C.’s eight wards, though what form that service takes is yet to be seen. Beyond the desire to serve residents in Washington, there is clear motive for establishing operations in the nation’s capital. With the Department of Transportation’s recent announcement that it would be revising regulations to account for autonomous technology, setting up operations where Congress can watch is a clear sales pitch.

Ford’s development hub in D.C. will be located in the rapidly gentrifying Ward 5 and will house maintenance, operations, and even vehicle cleaning services for when the sensors get dirty. Ford also said that it aims to branch eventually into Washington’s sprawling suburban neighborhoods, but there is no timeline set for that expansion.

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