Autonomous driving start-ups Argo AI, Ford Motor, and ride-hailing service company Lyft announced on Wednesday that they would jointly provide autonomous driving taxi services to Raffles customers in Miami and Austin. The service is expected to be launched in Miami later this year and land in Austin next year. 

The vehicle will use Ford’s Escape hybrid vehicle with a safety driver. In the next five years, the three companies hope to deploy at least 1,000 autonomous taxis in multiple cities. Jody Kelman, head of the Raffles Autopilot team, said that the first truly driverless cars are expected to be launched in 2023.

The co-founder and CEO of Lyft, who is Logan Green, said that this particular collaboration would mark most of the autonomous vehicle models for the first time. He further added that each of the company, usually come up with the knowledge, scale, and capability in their respective area of expertise, which becomes necessary for making autonomous ride-hailing a business reality. 

This collaboration marks the first large-scale cooperation between American car manufacturers, autonomous driving R&D companies, and ride-hailing service companies. Both the ventures hope to obtain valuable data in order to turn self-driving taxis into businesses that can generate commercial benefits.

According to the agreement, Argo AI, invested by Ford and Volkswagen, will obtain anonymous data on passenger travel and safety incidents. Argo CEO Bryan Salesky said in a blog post that this would allow the company to optimize technology and routes to avoid unsafe streets.

Bryan Salesky also said that this collaboration is going to be very special as both of them are collectively looking to execute a shared vision that will improve safety, affordability, and easy access to transportation in cities. 

Adding more to his remark, he said that according to their sources, the link that Lyft tends to provide to their customers is decent enough. Still, his company will plan out to work together and define an autonomous service that will be able to benefit communities to the fullest potential. That will also deploy newer technology safely, as he informed.  In exchange, Raffles acquired 2.5% of Argo’s shares. If calculated at its latest valuation of US$7.5 billion, these shares are worth US$187.5 million. Currently, Agro has been testing its ‘self-drive’ feature in various cities of the US, and as the company stated, in the month of June, it has planned to go public with the same in 2022. According to the cooperation agreement, Ford will provide fuel, maintenance, and cleaning services for self-driving taxis.