Ford Motor and Argo AI are launching a limited service of taxi bots on Lyft’s ride-sharing platform starting later this year, the companies announced Wednesday.
The initial deployment for service in two cities — Miami later this year, and Austin next year — marks an important step on Ford’s path to launching an autonomous car business.
The project brings together Ford, Argo AI — the Pittsburgh-based self-driving vehicle technology company in which Ford has a stake — and the country’s No. 2 ride-sharing service, Lyft.
“Argo and Ford are currently driving, mapping and preparing for commercial operations of autonomous vehicles in more cities than any other autonomous vehicle collaboration, and this new agreement is a critical step toward full commercial operations—adding Lyft’s world-class transportation network,” Scott said. Griffiths, CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility Businesses, in a statement.
He added, “This is the beginning of an important relationship between three dynamic companies that ultimately aims to deliver a reliable, high-quality passenger experience in a large-scale, multi-city operation over time.”
Here’s how it will work: With the vehicles launched, Lyft users in select service areas within participating markets will be able to welcome Ford’s self-driving model. The vehicles will have safety drivers.
The companies plan to roll out the service widely after launch in Miami and Austin. They are finalizing agreements under which they will deploy “at least” 1,000 self-driving vehicles on the Lyft network across “multiple” markets over the next five years, according to a press release.
“This collaboration marks the first time that all the pieces of the autonomous vehicle puzzle have come together in this way,” Lyft CEO Logan Green said in a statement. “Each company brings the scope, knowledge, and capability in their field of expertise necessary to make autonomous car rides a reality.”
Argo AI CEO Brian Salsky said in a statement that the three companies “implement a shared vision to improve safety, access and affordability of transportation in our cities.”
As part of the agreement, Argo AI will use an anonymized service and fleet data from Lyft that will inform decisions about scaling the business and how to safely use autonomous driving technology.
Meanwhile, Lyft will receive 2.5% of Argo AI’s common stock as part of the licensing and data access agreements they have reached to collaborate, the companies said.
Bloomberg reported earlier this month that Argo is preparing for an IPO, with an expected valuation of more than $7 billion.
Ford and German automaker Volkswagen both hold investment stakes in Argo. Argo’s role is to develop an autonomous driving system for use in auto partner products.
This alliance is against several competitors, including General Motors’ subsidiary Cruise LLC, who are racing to develop and launch self-driving vehicles on a large scale.
So far, only Google subsidiary Waymo has launched a de facto self-driving taxi service in the United States, Bloomberg recently reported.
Argo is testing self-driving vehicles in six cities across the country, including Detroit.
Jim Farley, Ford’s CEO, has spoken highly of Lyft in the past.
At a Deutsche Bank event last month, he said Ford “loves what Lyft and Uber are doing.”
“I’m very close to the two companies,” he said. “It’s very important to Ford and Argo, the two companies, and we believe that once we get past the COVID environment, their demands will really rise.”
And for Ford, which has committed to investing $7 billion in AV development through 2025, Farley sees opportunities beyond robotics services. He said last month that the automaker was “increasingly interested in the middle mile of freight transport,” referring to commercial vehicles that move goods, for example, from factory to warehouse.
Ford integrates self-driving cars with Lyft
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