Ford to Partner With Lyft to Deploy Self-Driving Cars

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【Summary】Ford Motor Co said on Wednesday it will collaborate with Lyft to deploy Ford's self-driving vehicles on the ride hailing company’s network in large numbers by 2021.

Original Eric Walz    Sep 27, 2017 12:45 PM PT
Ford to Partner With Lyft to Deploy Self-Driving Cars

SAN FRANCISCO — Ford Motor Co said on Wednesday it will collaborate with Lyft to deploy Ford self-driving vehicles on the ride services company's network in large numbers by 2021.

Ford and Lyft teams will begin working together to design software to allow Ford vehicles to communicate with Lyft's smartphone apps.

Ford's self-driving test vehicles will be connected to Lyft's network, however at first, customers will not be able to use them, Sherif Marakby, Ford's vice president for autonomous vehicles and electrification, told Reuters. Ford will put human-driven vehicles on Lyft's network.

"We're focused on partnering with the auto industry because frankly, we think we can't do this alone and need each other to be successful," said Raj Kapoor, Lyft's chief strategy officer. "It's one thing to do tests with one or two cars. It's a whole different world doing this on a large scale."

Lyft opened a new self-driving research facility in Silicon Valley in July and plans to recruit new engineering and other talent to further develop its own autonomous vehicle technology.

Lyft is taking a markedly different approach from Uber. While Uber's self-driving plans have mostly been a solo effort, Lyft has announced what it calls its Open Platform Initiative, a way to develop autonomous vehicle technology in conjunction with automakers and technology companies.

Since Lyft began its partnership with GM, one of Lyft's biggest investors, GM has started to test its own version of a ride-hailing network with some of its employees. GM's self-driving efforts are largely based on the technology developed by Cruise Automation, the start-up the automaker purchased last year for more than $1 billion.

Ford has also bet big on autonomous vehicles as part of its future. Ford pledged to invest $1 billion in Argo AI, a start-up that is developing machine learning and artificial intelligence for self-driving cars, over the next five years. Ford also is testing delivery services using self-driving vehicles and a van shuttle service. The self-driving vehicles Ford will deploy through Lyft will use software developed by Argo AI.

"Some view the opportunity with self-driving vehicles as a race to be first," Sherif Marakby, who leads Ford's autonomous vehicle efforts, said in a company blog post. "We are focusing our efforts on building a service based around actual people's needs and wants."

"We're not building prototypes for the sake of building prototypes," Marakby said, adding Ford intends to ultimately put thousands of self-driving vehicles in use.

Lyft has said it will offer an open platform for companies to deploy self-driving vehicles on its network, and has partnerships with self driving vehicle technology startup and Alphabet Inc's Waymo self driving car unit.

GM also has a 9 percent stake in Lyft, acquired for $500 million in January 2016. "Our relationship with GM has always been a non-exclusive relationship," Raj Kapoor, Lyft's chief strategy officer, told Reuters.

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