The service will be available in Miami by the end of the year, and in Austin next year, according to
It will work by allowing a Lyft customer in a defined geographical area the choice to ride in an autonomous vehicle to get to their destination.
The vehicles will still include a safety driver in the Ford Escape hybrid vehicles.
Ford and self-driving cars
The partnership is the first large-scale U.S. collaboration between a carmaker, a self-driving company and a ride-hailing company, according to
The companies’ objective is to learn how to turn robotaxis into a commercially viable business, which no company has been able to accomplish yet.
The fleet size will reportedly start at less than 100 vehicles collectively across both cities by next year. But Argo said the goal is to deploy 1,000 self-driving cars across multiple markets in the next five years.
Ford had previously said it would launch a full-scale autonomous vehicle business that would include robotaxis and driverless delivery by this year. But citing delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ford pushed that back to 2022, reports The Verge.
Ford had also said the commercial vehicles would eventually not have steering wheels or pedals, but this vehicle hasn’t been revealed yet.
Details of the partnership between Ford and Lyft
The agreement between the companies says that Argo AI will receive data on passenger trips and safety incidents so that the company can optimize its technology. This is meant to help with routing to avoid unsafe streets, according to Argo AI.
Lyft will receive a 2.5% stake in the company in exchange. Under the partnership, Ford will fuel, service and clean the robotaxi fleets.
Since Argo's most recent valuation is $7.5 billion, that means that Lyft’s equity would be worth $187.5 million. Argo is currently testing autonomous vehicles in several U.S. cities and said it plans to list publicly within the next year.
In 2017, Ford invested $1 billion in Argo, while Volkswagon invested $2.6 million last year.
In April, Lyft actually sold its own self-driving technology unit to
Toyota Motor Corpfor $550 million.
The company wanted to instead focus on routing, consumer interface and fleet management services.
What is the future of self-driving cars?
This marks the first time that either Ford or Argo AI have invited members of the public to ride in its self-driving vehicles.
For several years, Argo has already been testing the technology in other cities like Washington D.C., Pittsburgh, Palo Alto, and Detroit.
The company is also planning to introduce an autonomous micro-transit and delivery service with VW in Germany. Using its fifth-generation autonomous technology, Argo plans to launch this in 2025.
Lyft is already allowing consumers to book rides in self-driving cars in certain cities in partnership with Alphabet Inc's Waymo and Motional, which is a joint venture between Hyundai Motor Co and Aptiv.
According to Reuters, Lyft’s first truly driverless cars are expected to launch in 2023.