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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

Trump political team disavows "Patriot Party" groups

Marine One carries President Trump away from the White House on Inauguration Day. Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Donald Trump's still-active presidential campaign committee officially disavowed political groups affiliated with the nascent "Patriot Party" on Monday.

Why it matters: Trump briefly floated the possibility of creating a new political party to compete with the GOP — with him at the helm. But others have formed their own "Patriot Party" entities during the past week, and Trump's team wants to make clear it has nothing to do with them.

DOJ watchdog to probe whether officials sought to alter election results

Donald and Melania Trump exit Air Force One in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Jan. 20. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

The Justice Department's inspector general will investigate whether any current or former DOJ officials "engaged in an improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome" of the 2020 election, the agency announced Monday.

Driving the news: The investigation comes in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged Jeffrey Clark, the head of DOJ's civil division, had plotted with President Trump to oust acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen in a scheme to overturn the election results in Georgia.