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When Self-Driving Cars Meet Florida Drivers

Ford’s Argo team brought a fleet of autonomous vehicles to the famously congested streets of Miami, in order to test AVs in some real-world situations.
Robots in paradise: A self-driving Ford Fusion on the streets of Miami.
Robots in paradise: A self-driving Ford Fusion on the streets of Miami.Courtesy Ford

MIAMI—There’s a lot to distract a driver in downtown Miami. On Biscayne Boulevard, a yellow Corvette is battling a red Mustang in a Fast and the Furious-style street race. Outside the Hilton DoubleTree, there’s a pack of bikini-clad young people at the curb, looking for their Lyft to the beach. Within the downtown inner loop, orange and white barricades block off streets and divert traffic with detour signs as construction workers build condos and repair roads in anticipation of hosting visitors for Super Bowl LIV in 2020.

But Ford’s autonomous car is taking it easy and staying on course. As we roll from the MiamiCentral transportation hub to Ford’s autonomous vehicle terminal tucked away at the southeast end of the mural-splashed Wynwood neighborhood, the self-driving Fusion sedan I’m riding in gamely navigates the maze of one-way streets, steers around construction sites, and waits patiently behind double-parked cars picking up passengers. When a shirtless pedestrian looks like he might step off the curb far from the nearest crosswalk, the car spots him and, acting on an abundance of artificial caution, brakes to a natural-feeling stop before the man even ventures into the street.