Ford has partnered with ride-sharing company Lyft to help accelerate the rollout of a fully self-driving taxi service.
It’s a goal a number of firms spanning the automotive, ride-share and tech industries are chasing, and this has led to several partnerships like the one between Ford and Lyft. In fact, Lyft has been working closely with General Motors to develop a self-driving taxi service since 2016, with GM investing to the tune of $500 million in Lyft.
While Ford is confident of being able to develop and manufacture a fleet of fully self-driving cars, it says it needs Lyft’s expertise on how to manage the fleet to ensure cars reach customers in the most efficient means possible. Efficient management of the network will be of particular importance during high-load periods.
Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Vehicle
Lyft already has a large network of customers that’s constantly growing, plus strong knowledge of transportation flow within cities. Things Ford will like to glean from its partnership with Lyft include how to develop a fleet management system that integrates Lyft’s network of customers; which cities are best suited for a self-driving taxi service; and what kind of infrastructure will be necessary to service and maintain the fleet.
Ford isn’t rushing the deployment of self-driving cars, at least as far as public trials are concerned. Ford says it will start adding some of its self-driving car prototypes to Lyft’s network but won’t put customers in them until the technology is both safe and reliable. When ready, Ford will have self-driving cars operating alongside Lyft’s current community of drivers but this is likely years away still. When that will happen isn't clear but Ford has provided some indications.
A year ago, Ford announced it will launch a fully self-driving car by 2021. That's right, no steering wheel, brake pedal, or gas pedal. The catch? You won’t be able to buy it. It will be used for a self-driving taxi service along predetermined routes. That’s because it's only going to feature Level 4 self-driving capability. It will be able to handle set routes on its own but that’s it. You need to reach Level 5 self-driving capability for there to be no driver and the car able to drive anywhere. Ex-Ford CEO Mark Fields says such technology won’t be ready until about 2025.