Miami’s Lyft customers will be able to greet robotaxi from Ford and Volkswagen-backed AV startup Argo AI by the end of the year, the companies announced on Wednesday. Next year in Austin, Texas, riders can do the same. It is the latest transfer of autonomous vehicles to public use after the initial predictions of widespread availability of AV equipment did not materialize.
For years, Ford promised to launch a full-fledged independent vehicle business, including robotaxis and Driverless Deliveries, by 2021. It later moved to 2022, where the automaker referred to the delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It also stated that it would use a purpose-built stand-alone vehicle without a steering wheel or pedals to achieve its commercial objectives, which it has not yet revealed.
The agreement with Lyft is the first sign that Ford is still trying to deliver on its original promises. It is the first time that Ford or Argo have invited members of the public to embark on a journey in their autonomous vehicles.
The platform size will initially be “modest,” and “less than 100 vehicles,” together in both cities by next year, an Argo spokesman said. But the company says it will “lay the groundwork” for the introduction of 1,000 autonomous vehicles in several markets over the next five years.
By the end of the year, Argon autonomous vehicles will be available on the Lyft platform in Miami, where Argo has been testing its technology in recent years. If Lyft’s customers are in a defined geographical area, they will be offered the opportunity to drive an autonomous vehicle to their destination. These vehicles still have two safety drivers in the driver’s and front passenger’s seats.
The announcement also shows that despite the sale of its self-driving business to Toyota earlier this year, Lyft remains interested in keeping the AV industry at the forefront. The riding company already arranges trips with self-driving cars In Las Vegas With and in Aptiv With Phoenix Waymon.
But the company has no hand in developing the technology after that loads the level 5 autonomous vehicle research department to Toyota-owned Woven Planet Holdings $ 550 million last April. The company followed its rival Uberia in selling its expensive stand-alone vehicle units to offer its excise duty to its lost business. Last year, Uber sold his AV project to Aurora, a startup founded by a self-directed project by a former Google executive.
But Lyft is not just a passive player in this deal. The companies have signed a “network access” agreement that gives Lyft a 2.5 percent stake in Argo in exchange for the riding company’s self-guided travel data. Ford, Argo and Lyft say they will use data from Miami and Austin to figure out how to grow a full-fledged robotaxi business. According to the press release:
Argo uses anonymous services and Lyft fleet information to enable Argo to meet the challenges faced by other independent vehicle companies by focusing on where they can build a sustainable business and can strengthen deployment with local safety information.
It could prove quite profitable for Lyft if Argo continues its plans to become public at $ 7 billion. By Bloomberg, the start – up company could go through the traditional public listing approach or try a reverse merger with a specific acquisition company or SPAC. Ford invested $ 1 billion in Argo in 2017 and VW made its own investment of $ 2.6 billion last year.
Argo, which has tested its latest generation vehicles in Miami, Austin and Washington DC in recent years, as well as in Pittsburgh, Detroit and California. The company is also is preparing to launch an autonomous micro-transport and delivery service with VW In Germany, using the fifth generation of autonomous technology from 2025.