Experimentation and innovation are driving this technology. 

By John Egan

The Lyft ride-hailing service is traveling into a new era in Austin.

Starting next year, Lyft customers in certain parts of Austin will be able to hire a self-driving car as part of a new partnership with automaker Ford and Argo AI, a provider of technology for self-driving vehicles.

“This collaboration marks the first time all the pieces of the autonomous vehicle puzzle have come together this way,“ Lyft co-founder and CEO Logan Green says in a July 21 news release. “Each company brings the scale, knowledge, and capability in their area of expertise that is necessary to make autonomous ride-hailing a business reality.”

The initiative will roll out later this year in Miami, with self-driving Lyft cars coming to Austin sometime next year. Washington, D.C., is also on the road map. A so-called “safety driver” will ride in each of the cars along with the Lyft passengers.

The three companies behind the effort hope to add at least 1,000 self-driving cars to the Lyft network over the next five years in various U.S. markets, including Austin.

“This collaboration is special because we’re executing on a shared vision for improving the safety, access to, and affordability of transportation in our cities,” says Bryan Salesky, founder and CEO of Argo AI. “Beyond the link that Lyft provides to the customer, we’ll be able to work together to define where an autonomous service will benefit communities the most and ensure we’re deploying the technology safely.” 

Scott Griffith, CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles & Mobility Businesses, says this project will help pave the way for “a cleaner, safer, and more efficient urban mobility landscape.”

“This is the beginning of an important relationship between three dynamic companies ultimately aiming to deliver a trusted, high-quality experience for riders in a multicity, large-scale operation over time,” Griffith says.

In order to launch the service in Austin, Ford already has established a presence here. In 2019, the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker revealed it would introduce self-driving commercial vehicles for ride-hailing customers in Austin, Miami, and Washington, D.C. At the time, Lyft was not announced as a partner in this venture, and a definitive timetable for the launch wasn’t given.

“As the first city to allow a self-driving test vehicle on public streets, Austin is no stranger to experimentation,” Ford wrote in a Medium post in 2019. “And we think now is the perfect time to continue exploring how this technology can become an important part of a city’s transportation infrastructure — and make people’s lives easier.”

Via Austin.CultureMap.com