Robotaxis, or self-driving Lyfts, are soon to come to Miami and Austin, thanks to Ford and Argo AI.
Argo AI is an autonomous driving tech company based in Pittsburg, founded in 2016 by Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander. The two men came into the field from Google and Uber’s automated driving programs (Uber sold its program in December). The company’s major investors are Ford Motor Company, and, more recently, Volkswagen. Both companies are already putting the AI tech into their vehicles, as of 2020.
In a new partnership with ride-hailing service Lyft, Ford cars and trucks driven by Argo AI software and technology will soon be integrated into Lyft’s driving pool in Miami, Florida. They will begin with human backup drivers, and go fully autonomous after an unspecified amount of time if the statistics remain good. In 2022, the service will also begin using these robotaxis in Austin, Texas.
According to a joint statement by Lyft and Ford, the first rollout of these automated taxis will gather data to lay the groundwork for a much larger rollout over the next five years. Lyft hopes to have 1000 robotaxis carrying passengers by 2026, in multiple markets.
Until recently, Lyft was developing its own autonomous vehicle systems, but the company sold its technology to Toyota Motor Corp for over half a billion dollars. That deal closed on July 20, 2021, one day before the announcement of this new partnership.
“Each company brings the scale, knowledge and capability in their area of expertise that is necessary to make autonomous ride-hailing a business reality,” said Lyft CEO Logan Green in a statement about the new deal.
Lyft will be the first of the major ride-hailing services to offer fully autonomous vehicles, if all goes well, but they’ve been beaten to the punch by Waymo, a small service specific to Phoenix, Arizona, which already has self-driving cars carrying passengers.
Photo: An autonomous Tesla car. Credit: Flystock / Shutterstock.com