A fleet of driverless vehicles could soon be rolling on Dallas streets.
The city is trying to entice one of the largest automakers in the world to make that happen, in a move that could bring new jobs and other opportunities to Dallas if it all pans out.
On Wednesday, Dallas City Council members unanimously approved incentives intended to lure Ford Motor Company to pick Dallas as the latest location for its driverless vehicle initiative.
“This is the wave of the future and Dallas can either be on the forefront of it or we can give up that opportunity to another city like Houston or Oklahoma City,” Dallas Mayor Pro-Tem Chad West said.
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Ford is making self-driving cars through a partnership with Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based autonomous vehicle tech company that was founded by former Google and Uber leaders.
Ford and Argo AI is currently teaming up with business giants like Walmart and Lyft to launch autonomous vehicle delivery and ride share services in cities like Austin, Miami, and Washington, D.C.
Right now, Dallas and two cities in California are finalists to be the next stop in Ford's mission.
To stay competitive, Dallas is offering $3 million in tax breaks and a $250,000 economic development grant in return for 250 jobs and $160 million in Ford investment at the site. The company is also asked to develop technology training programs and establish internship opportunities Dallas College and Dallas and Richardson school districts.
Dallas city leaders have already identified a vacant warehouse and the parking lot around it on Burbank Street near Dallas Love Field to serve as the storage, service and management base if Ford accepts the city’s offer.
Hope Stevens drives by the Burbank location frequently on her way to work. She said autonomous technology could hurt workers, but new technology and training could provide different jobs in the future.
“The only concern I would have is the change of jobs. Right now, Lyft and Uber are jobs essential for some people,” she said. “It’s about making sure that the balance happens. Take those same folks and give them the opportunity.”
Aracely Fragosa, who grew up in the Burbank Street neighborhood, said she is concerned about driverless vehicles.
“Just living really close to that worries me because just not knowing how it's going to affect the traffic here in the community and having kids that play outside, and things like that,” She said. “They’re not as reliable yet, just because of how new they are.”
Driverless vehicles have been tested in North Texas. They provided transportation in the Arlington entertainment district in 2017 and have shuttled people to cars at a remote DFW Airport parking lot. Autonomous trucks are also in development in North Texas.
However, this fleet of Ford vehicles would be larger than past autonomous demonstrations in the area.
“There is a little bit of the unknown factor with autonomous vehicles, but on the flip side, we'll be on the cutting edge of technology,” Councilman West said.
Stevens said she wants more education before riding a driverless vehicle.
“We are ever-evolving. Technology is going to perpetually evolve. What was happening yesterday is evolved already today. And so, we just have to be ready to keep up with evolution and have the openness to do it,” she said.
A Ford spokesperson declined to comment on the Dallas bid or expand on exactly what type of work would take place at the facility, but issued a statement to NBC 5:
Ford is building its self-driving business for ride-hailing and goods delivery in Austin, Texas, Miami and Washington, D.C., and focused on building a profitable self-driving business. Scaling this technology is key, driving us to explore a variety of cities in the U.S. to expand our self-driving services. We will share more information about our self-driving business in the future.