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Ford announced on Wednesday that it will launch an autonomous cab service in Miami later this year in conjunction with ride-hailing company Lyft and artificial intelligence company Argo AI, which will expand in early 2022 to the city of Austin, Texas.
The self-driving taxis will circulate under the Lyft name with Argo AI’s self-driving system but will have a safety driver, for emergency situations, when the first units start circulating in the city of Miami later this year and in Austin in early 2022.
Ford said in a statement that this initial launch phase will be followed by an expansion period, with the goal of about 1,000 driverless taxis operating in the Lyft network in many cities over the next five years.
For months, Ford has been conducting limited tests of the Argo AI autonomous driving system in many U.S. cities, including Austin, Miami, Detroit, Palo Alto, Pittsburgh and Washington D.C.
The CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles, the automaker’s unit dedicated to developing driverless vehicles, Scott Griffith, said the deal “is a crucial step toward full commercial operation” of autonomous vehicles in urban environments.
As part of the deal, Lyft will receive a 2.5 % stake in Argo AI in exchange for the information the ride-hailing company will collect from its fleet of vehicles.
Argo AI is an artificial intelligence and self-driving development company, in which Ford and Volkswagen have a stake.
Lyft CEO and company co-founder Logan Green said the collaboration “marks the first time all the pieces of the autonomous vehicle puzzle have come together in this way.”
“Each company brings the scale, knowledge and capability in its area of expertise that is necessary to make the business of autonomous passenger transportation a reality,” Green added.
For his part, Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky said the collaboration involves executing a “shared vision to improve the safety, access and affordability of transportation in our cities.”
The deal comes at a time when Lyft and rival Uber have backed away from their original plans to develop self-driving technology themselves.
In April, Lyft announced the sale of its self-driving vehicle unit to Toyota for $550 million, while a few months earlier, in December, Uber did the same to startup Aurora, which is backed by Hyundai and Amazon.