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Ford's autonomous test vehicle in downtown Miami. Photo: Ford

This week I traveled to Miami for some seat time in Ford's autonomous test vehicles. I rode in 3 separate Ford Fusions, each with a different pair of safety drivers up front.

Details: The AV's safety drivers kept their hands and feet ready to react, but only once did they opt to take control.

  • At about 20 mph, the car was starting to change lanes to the right but aborted when it detected another car traveling up from behind at a higher speed.
  • It moved back into the current lane and let the other car pass on the right.
  • The driver then took control to execute a quick double-lane change to stay on the intended route.

Ford and its AV tech partner, Argo AI, are trying to master "naturalistic driving" — which means not being overly cautious so as to annoy other drivers. The cars mostly succeeded.

  • In one instance, the AV had to make an unprotected left turn across two lanes of heavy traffic.
  • The car waited for a natural gap to turn left, leaving just enough space for two more aggressive drivers to cut in front from the right, nosing into oncoming traffic.
  • It then waited until it was safe to turn, but then had to stop in the middle of the intersection to let pedestrians cross.
  • Behind us, a Miami driver laid on the horn.
  • The car? It was unfazed.

The bottom line: Miami's streets can be hectic and confusing, between random lane jogs, construction detours and occasional flash floods not to mention jaywalking tourists and wrong-way bicyclists. But all tests were relaxing, uneventful experiences, which says a lot about how close we're getting to the driverless car era.

Go deeper

Updated 3 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19 — Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate.
  4. World: Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan tributes flood in for "giant of the Senate" Bob Dole

Then-Vice President Joe Biden and former Sen. Bob Dole at an event put on by the World Food Program where he was awarded the first “McGovern-Dole Leadership Award” in December 2013. Photo: Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call

Republican and Democratic politicians, including former Senate colleagues, are sharing condolences and memories commemorating the life of Bob Dole, who passed away at 98 on Sunday morning.

The big picture: Dole, the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, was the longest serving Republican leader in the Senate until 2018, when current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell surpassed his record.

Former Sen. David Perdue to launch bid for Georgia governor

Photo: Megan Varner/Getty Images

Former Senator David Perdue (R) plans to announce a campaign against Georgia's incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp Monday, according to a source familiar with Perdue's thinking.

Why it matters: Perdue's challenge to his former ally Kemp sets up an unprecedented "scorched earth" battle between Georgia Republicans fueled by former President Donald Trump, in the battleground state. The news was first reported by Politico.