Ford, Lyft and Argo join forces to deploy Robo taxis

Ford Motor Co. and its partner Argo AI will start a self-driving service for Lyft Inc. with the company in Miami and Austin, Texas, later this year. It will be the biggest commercial job of the robot’s rides.

The agreement, announced on Wednesday, includes three key elements for the deployment of robotic taxis: a large automaker, an autonomous creative technology maker and a major vehicle company. The plan is to begin expanding the initiative significantly in 2023, with the ultimate goal being to ship 1,000 vehicles driving cars to six cities in the U.S. that Argo has been testing, including Washington.


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Under the deal, Lyft has a 2.5% stake in Argon, and Ford and Volkswagen AG have combined $ 3.6 billion in support. Lyft does not make any money investments, but Argo provides Fleet access and safety data that will provide a detailed roadmap to help implement the large-scale Robo-Taxi service.

The partnership will raise Argo’s valuation to $ 12.4 billion, previously valued at more than $ 7 billion, according to people who were not allowed to discuss the details and asked not to be identified.

The Robo-Taxi service will begin with less than 100 self-driving clouds at Miami Escape and Austin, each accompanied by two guardians. If necessary, a control driver who is willing to take you along with the employee. who controls the technology that drives the operation. Vehicles will not be limited to pre-approved routes, and passengers will be able to choose a Lyft-enabled autonomous vehicle on their phone at no extra charge.

“You’ll be able to go to the address, there won’t be fixed routes,” Aryan CEO Bryan Salesky said in an interview. He ‘s driving. “

Consumers who do not want to trust the technology will help “normalize” self-driving technology that will help “normalize” widespread deployment driving technology, Jody Kelman, head of Lyft’s autonomous unit, said in an interview.

“We want to help consumers as an opportunity to be transported to the technology we really want to drive,” Kelman said. “We think the easiest way for consumers to think about it is at the same price. Like any other ride on Lyft.”

Waymo, Cruise

Ford, Argo and Lyft are following Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo, a self-driving van in Chandler, Arizona, near Phoenix. General Motors Co.’s Cruise Unit is testing a business in the autonomous community of San Francisco, but has not said when the commercial development will take place.

Salesky says the company’s initiative with Ford and Lyft is a more complex endeavor than it is currently underway.

“We’re in a much more difficult environment,” Salesky said. “We are in cities with a high demand for shared vehicles and the delivery of goods that do great business.”

In addition to travel, the Ford Escapes self-driving will also be used to deliver food and other small products in collaboration with other companies not identified by Salesky.

Salesky said the specific market data provided by Lyft will help accelerate the expansion.

“It helps us know where these vehicles should be placed,” Salesky said. “You really understand what we are mapping and testing movement patterns in cities in the right areas. And safety data will help us understand humans. Driving performance.”

Lyft is gathering all the players needed to create the Robo-Taxi business under the deal.

“This partnership is the first time that all the puzzle pieces of the autonomous vehicle have come together,” Lyft founder and CEO Logan Green said in a statement. “Each company brings scale, knowledge and capacity to make the autonomous walks necessary in its field of experience a business reality.”

Ford has had a partnership with Lyft since 2017, although the vehicle company also received a $ 500 million investment from GM in 2016. Kelman said GM no longer has representation on Lyft’s board and the automaker no longer follows a Robo-Taxi deal with Lyft.

The implementation is slightly earlier than expected. Ford previously said it was postponing its debut to 2022 due to Pandemic-related delays.

“The key step”

“This new agreement is a key step for the entire commercial operations,” said Scott Griffith, CEO of Ford’s Autonomous Vehicle and Mobility Unit, referring to Lyft’s “global transportation network”. They started with “an important relationship between three dynamic companies”.

As Argo Ramp completes its commercialization, it plans to make it public this year and is holding a private fundraiser this summer. Argo was founded in 2016 by Salesky, who became Waymo launching the Google self-driving car project and Peter Rander, who previously ran the autonomous unit of Uber Technologies Inc.

Salesky admits that one of the biggest challenges is convincing car-drivers to try out self-driving cars, but he believes they will realize that it’s actually safer.

“We’ve all had human drivers we’d rather drive again,” Salesky said. “After experimenting, we think you’ll really enjoy it and want to walk with us.”

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© 2021 Bloomberg LP


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