Ford Motor and its autonomous-driving affiliate, Argo AI, have formed an alliance with Lyft in an effort to begin offering rides in self-driving cars.
Ford expects to begin operating self-driving cars in Miami through Lyft’s ride-hailing service this year. The vehicles will be outfitted with Argo’s self-driving technology but will still have someone at the steering wheel for safety.
“Going from the testing phase to a commercial service, while still using safety operators behind the wheel, is a big step,” Argo’s chief executive, Bryan Salesky, wrote in a blog post about the partnership. “But to go from there to offering driverless vehicles is an even bigger step. It requires validating that the technology is achieving a level of self-driving performance deemed safer than what we see on the streets today.”
The three companies hope to have self-driving cars operating in Austin, Texas, next year. They aim to have a few dozen cars operating in Miami and Austin and hope to have about 1,000 on the road across 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 operations with Ford and Argo. Ford and Volkswagen each own about 40 percent of Argo.
Waymo, the autonomous-driving company owned by Google’s parent, Alphabet, has been testing a limited driverless ride-hailing service in Phoenix for several years. Argo has been testing about 150 autonomous vehicles in six American cities as well as in Germany.
Just a few years ago, automakers and technology companies expected to make rapid progress in rolling out self-driving cars. But they have found perfecting the required hardware and software to be more difficult than initially thought.
Two years ago, Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, predicted that his company would have a million self-driving taxis on the road by 2020. But it is still developing its Full Self-Driving software, and in filings to California regulators it has said that the system cannot pilot a car without a driver and that it may never reach that ability.