Driver-free Lyft? It’s nearly here

Maybe it’s sleeting outside, or maybe you’ve downed too many rounds to drive safely. The rise of ride-hailing has given us positive outcomes for both these circumstances, which involve a driver answering your smartphone call to pick you up. Ford and its partner on autonomous driving Argo AI, the Pittsburgh-based tech startup in which Ford now has a major stake, are laying the groundwork to change that ride scenario considerably. By the end of this year, Ford and Argo AI plant to create a commercial, large-scale autonomous ride-hailing service in partnership with Lyft, one of the Big Two of U.S. ride apps, the other being Uber. Ford self-driving vehicles – with onboard safety drivers as the experiment debuts – will be deployed along the Lyft network as part of a major network-access agreement.

Passenger service will get underway later this year in Miami, where testing is now underway, and in Austin, Texas, next year. You can see that the Ford Escape in the photo has grown camera and sensor appendages at both front corners. As these vehicles are put into use, Lyft customers within the self-driving service area will be able to select an autonomous-driving Ford when they hail their ride. The technology is scalable, allowing for deployment of at least 1,000 self-driving Fords across the Lyft network within five years. Under the deal, Lyft will be getting a 2.5 percent equity share in Argo AI.

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