Ford Motor and its autonomous driving subsidiary Argo AI have formed an alliance with Lyft to offer rides in self-driving cars.
Ford wants to start operating self-driving cars in Miami via Lyft’s shuttle service earlier this year. The vehicles will be equipped with Argo’s self-driving technology, but will still have someone behind the wheel for safety reasons.
“Moving from testing to a commercial service while still having security guards behind the wheel is a big step,” wrote Bryan Salesky, CEO of Argo, on a blog post about the partnership. “But moving from there to driverless vehicles is an even bigger step. It needs to be confirmed that the technology is reaching a level of self-driving performance that is believed to be safer than what we see on the road today. “
The three companies hope to be able to operate self-driving cars in Austin, Texas next year. They aim to have a few dozen cars in Miami and Austin and hope to have about 1,000 on the streets in multiple cities within five years.
As part of the partnership, Lyft will acquire a 2.5 percent stake in Argo. In return, Lyft has agreed to share data it has collected on ridesharing with Ford and Argo. Ford and Volkswagen each own approximately 40 percent of Argo.
Waymo, the self-driving company owned by Google parent Alphabet, has been testing a limited driverless rideshare service in Phoenix for several years. Argo is testing around 150 autonomous vehicles in six American cities and Germany.
Just a few years ago, automakers and technology companies expected rapid advances in the adoption of self-driving cars. But perfecting the required hardware and software turned out to be more difficult than initially assumed.
Two years ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk predicted that his company would be company have a million self-driving taxis on the street by 2020. But it is still developing its full self-driving software, and in filings with California regulators, it has said the system cannot control a car without a driver and that it may never achieve that capability.