Ford Motor Co. today announced a partnership with mobile ridesharing company Lyft that will eventually bring self-driving cars to the masses and help both companies work towards a more affordable, dependable, and accessible transportation future.
“As Ford continues making progress on developing self-driving technology — through our self-driving vehicle and Argo AI’s virtual driver system — we are simultaneously building out the infrastructure and systems necessary to make it easy for people to use our service,” says Sherif Marakby, Ford’s vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification. “Think of it this way: Someday, when you open the Lyft app during a period of high demand, Ford and Lyft software will need to be capable of quickly dispatching a self-driving vehicle so that you can get to your destination as quickly and as safely as possible.”
By combining Lyft’s network of customers, growing demand for rides, and knowledge of transportation flow within many metropolitan cities throughout the U.S with Ford’s experience in autonomous vehicle development and large scale manufacturing, the partnership is expected to effectively share information to help create a self-driving fleet for ridesharing together.
Both companies will now draw on their experience with fleet management and big data to begin to design a technology platform that can connect with Lyft to dispatch self-driving vehicles, as well as determine cities to test the technology in and what infrastructure will be necessary to service and maintain the fleet.
“Some view the opportunity with self-driving vehicles as a race to be first. But we are focusing our efforts on building a service based around actual people’s needs and wants,” adds Marakby. “We are placing a high priority on safety and dependability so customers will trust the experience that our self-driving technology will one day enable.”
As Ford builds their technology platform, they will deploy human-driven vehicles on Lyft’s network to ensure compatibility with its customer-facing platform. Development teams are currently collaborating with the goal of a seamless transition for current Lyft users.
Once self-driving test vehicles are added to Lyft’s network, customers won’t be introduced until both companies are “certain the technology delivers a positive, reassuring experience” where meaningful feedback can be given.
The news follows a $500 million investment in Lyft by General Motors Co. in Jan. 2016 to create a network of on-demand autonomous vehicles nationwide. Under the terms of the deal, GM would become a preferred provider of short-term use vehicles to Lyft drivers through rental hubs in various cities.