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Semi-Autonomous Ford Escapes Available for Rides with Lyft by Late 2021

Autoweek logo Autoweek 5 days ago Connor Hoffman
a car driving down a street: The first rides will be available in Miami, then Austin in 2022. Ford says it wants more than 1000 of these vehicles in Lyft's ride-sharing fleet in five years. © Jared Wickerham/AI Argo The first rides will be available in Miami, then Austin in 2022. Ford says it wants more than 1000 of these vehicles in Lyft's ride-sharing fleet in five years.
  • Ford, in partnership with Argo AI and Lyft, will add semi-autonomous Escape SUVs as a choice for users of Lyft's ride-sharing service.
  • The service will launch in Miami later this year and Austin, Texas, in 2022. Ford says it wants over 1000 cars in the fleet in the next five years.
  • There will be safety drivers behind the wheel, and customers have the choice when using the Lyft app whether to select an autonomous ride from Ford.

Lyft will soon offer semi-autonomous rides in select cities through a partnership with Ford and autonomous vehicle tech company Argo AI. The rides will be available first in Miami, Florida, starting later in 2021. Lyft users can choose whether or not they want a semi-autonomous ride when they use the ride-sharing service's app. The point of this exercise is to begin commercially deploying autonomous vehicles on what will eventually be a large scale.

graphical user interface, application, Teams: Ford/Lyft self driving app © Ford Ford/Lyft self driving app

These still aren't self-driving cars, though, as Ford says there will be safety drivers behind the wheel of these Escape crossovers equipped with Argo AI's Self-Driving System (SDS) 360-degree lidar. The semi-autonomous rides will be offered in Austin, Texas, starting next year, and Ford says it hopes to have more than 1000 of these cars in the Lyft fleet over the next five years.

Ford and Volkswagen jointly invested billions of dollars in Argo AI in 2019 to develop autonomous driving systems for their vehicles. Volkswagen plans to have Level 4 autonomy on its electric ID.Buzz van for commercial use by 2025. In addition, Toyota recently invested $400 million into Chinese autonomous vehicle tech company Pony.ai.

a person driving a car: Ford, Argo AI, Lyft semi-autonomous car © Ford Ford, Argo AI, Lyft semi-autonomous car

Ford retains ownership of the vehicles, while Argo AI supplies the technology and the safety drivers. As part of the deal, Argo AI will use data from Lyft to further develop its technologies, and Lyft will receive 2.5 percent of the common equity of Argo AI. Lyft recently sold its autonomous driving division to a subsidiary of Toyota. The company also has a partnership with autonomous company Motional and Hyundai to have fully autonomous cars on the Lyft network by 2023.

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