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This post may refer to COVID-19

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Ford’s self-driving cars will be available on Lyft’s platform in Miami and Austin

Lift customers in Miami will be able to greet a robotic taxi from Argo AI, an AV startup backed by Ford and Volkswagen, before the end of the year, the companies announced on Wednesday. Next year, riders in Austin, Texas, will be able to do the same. It is the latest step to make more autonomous vehicles available for public use after the initial predictions about the high availability of AVs could not be realized.

For years, Ford promised to start a full-scale autonomous vehicle business, including robotic taxi and driverless delivery, by 2021. It was later pushed to 2022, when the automaker reported delays due to the coronavirus pandemic. It also said it would use a custom-built autonomous vehicle without steering wheel or pedals to pursue its commercial ambitions, which it has not yet revealed.

The agreement with Lyft is the first sign that Ford is still trying to fulfill its original promises. This will be the first time that Ford or Argo has invited members of the public to take a ride in their autonomous vehicles.

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A fleet size will only be “modest” with “less than 100 vehicles” combined in both cities by next year, a spokesman for Argo said. But the company says it is “laying the groundwork” for deploying 1,000 autonomous vehicles in several markets over the next five years.

By the end of the year, Argo’s autonomous vehicles will be available on the Lift platform in Miami, where Argo has been testing its technology for the past many years. If Lyft customers are within a defined geographical area, they will be offered the choice to drive in an autonomous vehicle to their destination. These vehicles will still include two safety drivers in the driver and front passenger seats.

The announcement also signals that despite selling its self-driving business to Toyota earlier this year, Lyft is still interested in keeping track of the AV industry. The riding-greeting company already mediates rides in self-driving cars in Las Vegas with Aptiv and in Phoenix with Waymo.

But the company will not have a hand in the development of the technology after releasing its Level 5 autonomous vehicle research department to Toyota-owned Woven Planet Holdings for $ 550 million in April last year. The company followed its rival Uber in selling its expensive autonomous vehicle division in an attempt to cut off the money-losing parts of its business. Last year, Uber sold its AV project to Aurora, a startup founded by the former head of Google’s self-driving project.

Lifting is not just a passive player in this deal

But Lift is not just a passive player in this deal. The companies have signed a “network access agreement” that gives Lyft a 2.5 percent stake in Argo in return for the riding health company’s data on self-driving rides. Ford, Argo and Lyft say they will use the data generated from Miami and Austin to figure out how to grow a full-scale robot taxi business. According to the press release:

Argo will use anonymized service and fleet data from Lyft, enabling Argo to overcome the challenges facing other autonomous vehicle companies by focusing on where they can build a sustainable business and validate implementation through localized safety data.

It could prove quite lucrative for Lyft if Argo follows up on its plans to go public worth $ 7 billion. According to Bloomberg, the startup could go the traditional route of IPO, or it could attempt a reverse merger with a particular acquisition firm or SPAC. Ford invested 1 billion. $ In Argo in 2017, and VW made its own investment of 2.6 billion. $ Last year.

Argo, which has been testing its fourth-generation vehicles in Miami, Austin and Washington, DC, for the past few years, as well as Pittsburgh, Detroit and California. The company is also preparing to launch an autonomous microtransit and delivery service with VW in Germany using its fifth generation autonomous technology starting in 2025.