Self-Driving Fords Set for Lyft-off in Miami and Austin

Image Credit: iStock images, Sundry Photography

Sign up for smart news, insights, and analysis on the biggest financial stories of the day.

Ford might have to adjust its slogan from “Have you driven a Ford lately?” to “Has a Ford driven you lately?

On Wednesday, America’s second-largest auto manufacturer announced it will launch a fleet of self-driving cars in a partnership with ride-hailing app Lyft and Argo AI in Miami by the end of this year.

The Model T Of Autonomy

The race to a self-driving future is hitting full throttle among top automakers. General Motors says it expects to sell consumers autonomous vehicles this decade, Volkswagen plans to launch a self-driving microbus with Argo by 2025, and Ford is investing $29 billion in autonomous and electric vehicles over the next few years.

Ford’s already testing fleets in a half-dozen major U.S. cities with tech from Argo, a self-driving startup it’s backing alongside VW. And now autonomous Ford models are nearly ready for roll-out:

  • Ford, Lyft, and Argo estimate customers using the ride-hailing app in multiple markets will be served by at least 1,000 self-driving cars within five years. After launching in Miami later this year, Austin will see a roll-out in 2022.
  • Argo AI is banking heavily on its tech going commercial and plans to go public as early as this year with a valuation expected to reach above $7 billion.

Self-Driver’s Ed: The autonomous cars that serve Lyft riders won’t be fully independent just yet. They’ll still require safety drivers, who can take over if needed. If manual intervention isn’t necessary, the driver can simply stick to the usual chats about sports or the weather.

Can’t Do It Alone: Lyft’s reliance on Ford and Argo is the latest move among ride-hailing apps abandoning costly in-house autonomous projects to instead seek out partners with self-driving expertise. Uber sold its self-driving unit to Hyundai and Amazon-backed startup Aurora in December, and in April, Lyft said it’s unloading its autonomous vehicle unit to a Toyota subsidiary for $550 million.