Ford & Argo AI to Deploy Self-driving Vehicles on Lyft's Ride-Hailing Network This Year

Ford & Argo AI to Deploy Self-driving Vehicles on Lyft's Ride-Hailing Network This Year

Author: Eric Walz   

Lyft Inc customers in Florida might be picked up in a self-driving vehicle by the end of this year. Ford Motor Co and its autonomous driving partner Pittsburgh-based Argo AI plan to self-driving vehicles on Lyft's ride-hailing network by the end of the year, Ford announced on Wednesday.

It will be the first industry collaboration between a tech company, automaker, and a ride-hailing company. Passenger pickups in self-driving vehicles are planned for Miami later this year and in Austin, TX starting in 2022.   

The three companies will work together to commercialize autonomous ride hailing at scale, and each brings their own expertise. Argo AI will supply its robust autonomous driving tech, Ford will supply the vehicles, and Lyft will operate the ride-hailing network that the autonomous vehicles will be deployed on, as well as collect data that will help the companies scale the service to more cities. 

"This collaboration marks the first time all the pieces of the autonomous vehicle puzzle have come together this way," Lyft co-founder and CEO Logan Green said. "Each company brings the scale, knowledge and capability in their area of expertise that is necessary to make autonomous ride-hailing a business reality."

At first, Argo AI and Ford will deploy Ford self-driving cars on the Lyft network with safety drivers behind the wheel.

As the vehicles are deployed, Lyft customers in the defined service areas will be able to select a Ford self-driving vehicle from the app. Ford, Argo AI and Lyft are currently working to finalize agreements aiming to deploy at least 1,000 self-driving vehicles on the Lyft network, across multiple markets over the next five years.

"Argo and Ford are currently piloting, mapping and preparing for commercial operations of autonomous vehicles in more cities than any other AV collaboration, and this new agreement is a crucial step toward full commercial operations – the addition of Lyft's world-class transportation network," said Scott Griffith, CEO, Ford Autonomous Vehicles & Mobility Businesses. "This is the beginning of an important relationship between three dynamic companies ultimately aiming to deliver a trusted, high-quality experience for riders in a multi-city large scale operation over time."   

As part of the agreement, Argo will use anonymized service and fleet data collected by Lyft. The data will help the companies build a sustainable and safe business model. Lyft will receive 2.5% of the common equity of Argo AI as part of the licensing and data access agreements to collaborate on the commercialization of autonomous vehicles.

In order to support self-driving vehicle deployments at scale, Ford has established a presence in Miami, Austin and Washington, D.C. This includes fleet maintenance such as fueling, charging, vehicle servicing and cleaning. Ford also plans to work closely with city leaders to provide mobility solutions to meet their needs. 

Ford invested $1 billion for a majority stake in Argo in Feb 2017 in order to jumpstart its own autonomous driving development, back when the startup was a little-known Pittsburgh-based robotics company. 

In June 2020, automaker Volkswagen announced it closed on a seperate $2.6 billion investment in Argo AI. The partnership allows Ford and Volkswagen to share development costs of self-driving technology.

Ford's partnership with Argo AI and Lyft Its the latest example of a legacy automaker forming an alliance with a promising tech startup and mobility company to jumpstart the development of autonomous driving technology, as automakers around the world race to be the first to deploy autonomous vehicles at scale.

Lyft originally planned to develop its autonomous driving in-house via its autonomous driving division Level-5, which was established in 2017. However, San Francisco-based Lyft abandoned those plans and sold its self-driving business to Toyota's Woven Planet Holdings in April for $550 million.

Lyft's main rival Uber sold off its Advanced Technologies Group (Uber ATG) for $4 billion in December 2020 to Silicon Valley startup Aurora, a company co-founded by Chris Urmson, who once led Google's early self-driving car program that spun off into Waymo.

The two ride hailing companies have realized that developing self-driving technology in house is a difficult task without outside assistance. But Lyft's new partnership with Argo AI and Ford will make it easier.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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