By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Ford has been testing their autonomous cars on Miami streets for several years. It’s now at the point of experimenting with commercial applications.

“We have been doing a lot of pilot programs with partners to understand the different business models around moving passengers and delivering goods,” said Alex Buznego, the Miami market manager for Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC.

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So how does a lush educational vegetable and herb garden at a local Miami-Dade school play into Ford’s development for the unique vehicle’s commercial viability?

“Before COVID, we were able to send home thousands of thousands of bags of produce because students to could take them home,” said Linda Lecht, president of the Education Fund.

With that pipeline now closed, that’s where the autonomous Fords come into the picture – a test case for deliveries.

“Because of our relationships with the Ford Motor Company Fund, they put us with Ford autonomous vehicles who offed to drive the bags to all the families,” Lecht said.

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The delivery is contact free, with the veggies going to families that can use the greens. It’s a true farm to table.

“Meanwhile, as we learn about those businesses and the customer experience study, the business model, why not in the meantime also help out the community, help our neighbors in what has been a challenging year,” Buznego said.

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Ford is a major supporter of the Education Fund, which sponsors school gardens, making the connection is almost seamless.

“Once COVID came along, we had to look for alternatives ways to get the produce into the hands of families,” Lecht said.

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In case you were wondering, yes, there are technicians in the cars during all the test runs.