Ford Motor and its autonomous-driving affiliate, Argo AI, have partnered with Lyft in an effort to offer rides in self-driving cars.
Ford expects to drive self-driving cars this year in Miami via Lyft’s ride-hailing service. The vehicles will be equipped with Argo’s self-driving technology, but will still have someone at the wheel for safety.
“It is a big step to move from the testing phase to a commercial service and still use security personnel behind the wheel,” Argo’s chief executive, Bryan Salesky, wrote in a blog post about the partnership. “But to offer driverless vehicles from there is an even bigger step. It requires validation that the technology achieves a level of self-driving performance that is considered safer than what we see on the streets today.”
The three companies hope to have self-driving cars next year in Austin, Texas. They aim to have several dozen cars in Miami and Austin and hope to have about 1,000 on the road in multiple cities within five years.
Under the partnership, Lyft will take a 2.5 percent equity stake in Argo. In return, Lyft has agreed to share data it has collected about ride-sharing with Ford and Argo. Ford and Volkswagen each own about 40 percent of Argo.
Waymo, the autonomous driving company owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, has been testing a limited self-driving taxi service in Phoenix for several years. Argo has tested about 150 autonomous vehicles in six US cities and in Germany.
Just a few years ago, automakers and tech companies expected to make rapid strides in rolling out self-driving cars. But they found perfecting the necessary hardware and software more difficult than initially thought.
Two years ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk predicted that his company would do just that have a million self-driving taxis on the road by 2020. But it is still developing its full self-driving software, and in filings with regulators in California it has said the system cannot drive a car without a driver and may never reach that capability.