Lyft will be testing autonomous AI from pick-up to drop-off with safety drivers onboard.

Lyft Exchanges Ride-Hailing Data for Stake in Argo AI as Ford Provides Backing for Testing Expansion

Well, the action has heated up in the autonomous vehicle competition here in the U.S. And some big names are involved in some big deals.

Ford, Argo AI, and Lyft just to mention a few. By combining AI with Lyft’s driving data and Ford’s financial backing a new look is in store for ride-hailing in major cities starting with Miami. The goal is to put 1,000 vehicles in cities for testing.

Austin will follow next year, with the remaining U.S. cities being added to the Lyft app in 2023 and beyond, according to Jody Kelman, who heads up Lyft’s Autonomous, the company’s self-driving deployment business unit. Argo currently tests in Detroit, Palo Alto, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C.

“It’s the biggest deployment certainly that we’re doing and that I think anyone else is doing,” Kelman said. “One thousand cars across six markets is a big leap forward in terms of scaled commercialization.”

This isn’t just about Argo and Ford jumping on the Lyft network. Lyft will also provide access to driving data from its entire network in exchange for a 2.5% stake in Argo AI, under the terms of the agreement announced Wednesday. The partnership has boosted Argo’s valuation to $12.4 billion, sources confirmed to TechCrunch. (The valuation was first noted by Bloomberg).

To be sure, testing AVs in major cities is old news. Phoenix Arizona has been testing these vehicles for a few years now and it has had its problems. These new Ford Argos will have safety drivers behind the autonomous wheel.

But by merging Lyft’s data with the start-up Argo AI, Ford feels it will have an advantage right from the start.

“This will really help us hone and figure out where the demand is and what peak demand looks like, which helps us figure out where we need to map, where we need to go, where we need to operate,” Salesky said. “It helps us spend our test resources wisely.”

The agreement is an indication that Argo has made progress in its AV development and specifically its work with Ford. The automaker announced in February 2017 that it was investing $1 billion in Argo AI, which was not even six months old at the time. shared this information in an article by Kirsten Korosec. And Korosec includes the latest news about Lyft’s other moves.

Lyft took on the expensive pursuit of developing autonomous vehicle technology internally through a division called Level 5. That self-driving division was acquired in April by Toyota’s Woven Planet Holdings subsidiary for $550 million.

As part of the acquisition agreement, Woven Planet signed commercial agreements to use the Lyft platform and fleet data.