Jul 21, 2021 - Technology

Argo, Lyft to launch self-driving Ford vehicles in Miami and Austin

Photo of Argo/Lyft robotaxi

The Ford self-driving robotaxi, which uses technology from Argo AI. Photo: Courtesy of Argo

Ford and its self-driving technology partner, Argo AI, plan to deploy robotaxis on the Lyft ride-hailing network later this year, as autonomous vehicles inch closer to reality.

Why it matters: The AV technology race has narrowed to a half-dozen major players, including Pittsburgh-based Argo, which is backed by Ford and Volkswagen. But it has long been unclear how any of them will turn AVs into a viable commercial service.

  • Today's announcement offers one potential pathway to deploying robotaxis "at scale," Argo CEO Bryan Salesky said.

What's happening: Ford will produce the fleet of vehicles, Argo will provide the autonomous technology and Lyft will supply the riders through its ride-hailing network.

  • “This collaboration marks the first time all the pieces of the autonomous vehicle puzzle have come together this way,“ said Lyft co-founder and CEO Logan Green. “Each company brings the scale, knowledge and capability in their area of expertise that is necessary to make autonomous ride-hailing a business reality.”

Details: The autonomous ride-hailing service will launch in Miami later this year and in Austin, Texas, early in 2022.

  • Those initial services will lay the groundwork for deploying at least 1,000 autonomous vehicles across multiple markets over the next five years, the companies said in a joint press release.

The intrigue: The deal includes a unique "equity for data exchange" that will give Lyft a 2.5% stake in Argo in exchange for access to data about its network that will help validate Argo's commercialization strategy.

  • That stake is worth about $181 million, based on Argo's $7.25 billion valuation a year ago.
  • Yes, but: Argo plans to go public in the next year or so and is likely to fetch a higher valuation, which would make Lyft's stake worth even more.

Between the lines: As part of the agreement, Argo will use anonymized service and fleet data from Lyft to identify the markets where self-driving cars could have the biggest impact.

  • Argo will also learn about the safety risks within each market.
  • "We’ve already been building a database of public local collision data from multiple sources in order to measure the performance of our technology versus human drivers on a street-by-street basis," Salesky wrote.
  • "Our partnership with Lyft will add a critical layer of knowledge about the safety, or lack thereof, of our streets."
  • That will enable Argo to measure the performance of its self-driving system on specific streets and to create what it calls a “geonet,” or a network of streets where it can operate safely.
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