Ford Motor and its autonomous-driving affiliate, Argo AI, have formed a partnership with ride-hailing service Lyft in an effort to begin offering rides in self-driving cars in the near future.
Ford expects to begin operating self-driving cars in Miami through Lyft’s ride-hailing service this year. However, even though the vehicles will be equipped with Argo’s self-driving technology, a human driver will remain at the wheel to ensure their overall safety.
As Argo’s CEO Bryan Salesky put it in a blog post announcing the partnership, “moving from the testing phase to a commercial service while still employing safety operators behind the wheel is a significant step.” “However, making the transition from there to offering driverless vehicles is a significant step forward. Validating that the technology is capable of achieving a level of self-driving performance that is deemed safer than what we currently see on the roads is necessary.”
The three companies hope to have self-driving cars on the road in Austin, Texas, by the end of the calendar year. They hope to have a few dozen cars operating in Miami and Austin by the end of the year, and they hope to have about 1,000 cars operating in multiple cities by the end of the year.
According to the terms of the agreement, Lyft will acquire a 2.5 percent stake in Argo. In exchange, Lyft has agreed to share data it has gathered about ride-sharing operations with Ford and Argo, which will benefit both companies. Argo is owned by Ford and Volkswagen, who each own approximately 40% of the company.
For several years, Waymo, the autonomous-driving company owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has been testing a limited driverless ride-hailing service in Phoenix with limited success. A total of 150 autonomous vehicles have been tested by Argo in six cities across America, as well as in Germany.
Only a few years ago, automakers and technology companies predicted that they would make significant progress in the development and deployment of self-driving cars. However, they have discovered that perfecting the necessary hardware and software has proven to be more difficult than they had anticipated.
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. The company, however, is still developing its Full Self-Driving software, and in filings with California regulators, the company has stated that the system is unable to pilot a car without the assistance of a human driver and that it may never achieve that capability.