Ford Motor Co. and its self-driving unit Argo AI plan to launch autonomous vehicles on the Lyft ride-hailing network by the end of the year.
The service is expected to launch in Miami later this year and in Austin, Texas, next year with a safety driver inside the Ford Escape hybrid vehicles. Over the next five years, the companies want to deploy at least 1,000 robotaxis in multiple cities, according to a Wednesday press release.
The first truly driverless cars are expected to launch in 2023, said Jody Kelman, head of Lyft’s autonomous team.
The partnership marks the first large-scale U.S. collaboration between a carmaker, a self-driving developer and a ride-hailing company. The companies hope to gain valuable insights on how to turn robotaxis into a commercially viable business — a challenge no company has yet answered.
As part of the agreement, Argo AI, which is backed by Ford and Volkswagen Group, will receive anonymized data on passenger trips and safety incidents. That will allow Argo to optimize its technology and routing to avoid unsafe streets, Argo CEO Bryan Salesky said in a blog post.
In exchange, Lyft will receive a 2.5 percent stake in the company. At Argo’s most recent valuation of $7.5 billion, that equity slice would be worth $187.5 million. Argo, which is currently testing autonomous vehicles in several U.S. cities, in June said it plans to list publicly within the next year.
Ford will fuel, service and clean the robotaxi fleets under the partnership.