A taxi service using driverless cars controlled by Argo AI’s self-driving system is edging closer to becoming reality.
Fords equipped with Argo AI’s self-driving system have been testing in a handful of U.S. cities for several years, and some of these will join Lyft’s networks in Miami and Austin in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
It means Lyft customers in those cities will soon get a chance to ride in one of Argo AI’s self-driving cars. The cars will operate within defined areas, and there will still be a safety driver on board.
This initial deployment is meant to lay the groundwork for scaling up the operations. There’s more to it than just the self-driving technology. There also needs to be operations to support the fleets, including fueling, servicing and cleaning.
Argo AI together with Ford and Lyft are looking to deploy at least 1,000 self-driving cars on the Lyft network across multiple cities over the next five years. Other cities where Argo AI is testing include Pittsburgh, Silicon Valley, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and soon the German city of Munich. In Germany, Argo AI will use Volkswagens for its self-driving cars.
Ford and Volkswagen Group each have a 42% stake of Argo AI, and Lyft will receive a 2.5% stake as part of this new deal. Argo AI’s most recent valuation was $7 billion, and CEO Bryan Salesky hinted in June that it may launch an initial public offering in the near future.
Argo AI is developing a full self-driving system comprising both software and hardware. A major advantage Argo AI has is its lidar system which can accurately spot and identify objects more than 1,300 feet away, or about 300 feet more than current lidar sensors—something that’s vital for highway driving.