Automotive giant Ford and autonomous vehicle technology startup Argo AI will launch self-driving vehicles on the Lyft network by the end of 2021, the companies announced July 21.
The companies will deploy self-driving cars with safety drivers who can take over in an emergency starting in Miami later in 2021 and in Austin starting in 2022. As these vehicles are brought into service, Lyft users in these areas will be able to select an autonomous car to hail a ride.
“This collaboration is special because we’re executing on a shared vision for improving the safety, access to and affordability of transportation in our cities,” Bryan Salesky, founder and CEO of Argo AI, said in a statement. “Beyond the link that Lyft provides to the customer, we’ll be able to work together to define where an autonomous service will benefit communities the most and ensure we’re deploying the technology safely.”
This initial deployment phase will lay the groundwork for scaling operations. The companies are now working to finalize agreements aiming to deploy at least 1,000 autonomous vehicles on the Lyft network across multiple markets over the next five years.
“This collaboration marks the first time all the pieces of the autonomous vehicle puzzle have come together this way,” Logan Green, Lyft co-founder and CEO, said in a statement. “Each company brings the scale, knowledge and capability in their area of expertise that is necessary to make autonomous ride-hailing a business reality.”
Ford and Volkswagen have equal ownership stakes in Argo AI. Argo’s self-driving system is the first one with commercial deployment plans for both Europe and the United States, and Argo also suggested it may be the first self-driving technology company to develop automotive-grade components—hardware built to withstand extreme thermal conditions and maintain structural integrity over time—that can be manufactured in significant volumes.
The new collaboration will collect market and safety data to help define where self-driving technology can safely serve consumers. As part of the agreement, Argo will use anonymized service and fleet data from Lyft to focus on where they can build a sustainable business and validate deployment through localized safety data. In addition, 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 safe commercialization of autonomous vehicles.
“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,” Scott Griffith, CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles & Mobility Businesses, said in a statement. “These three companies share a belief that autonomous vehicles will be a key enabler for a cleaner, safer and more efficient urban mobility landscape. 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.”