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Lyft has started offering autonomous robotaxi rides, with two safety drivers on board, in Austin, Texas. The autonomous drives will be powered by Argo AI’s technology in Ford vehicles.
Users can hail an autonomous ride using the Lyft app, similarly to how they would hail a regular Lyft car. Prices for the rides will also be the same as normal Lyft rides.
When the vehicle arrives, riders use the Lyft app to unlock the doors and start their ride. While riders will be sharing their rides will two safety operators right now, the company aims to give fully autonomous rides in the future.
Austin is the third city Lyft offers autonomous rides in, the first two being Las Vegas and Miami. The company began giving rides in Miami in December 2021. These rides are also using Argo AI technology on Ford vehicles, as part of a partnership between the three companies that was announced in July 2021.
In Las Vegas, Lyft began offering autonomous rides using Motional technology this year but has plans for a larger commercial launch in 2023. There, riders will hail autonomous rides from Motional’s all-electric Hyundai IONIQ 5-based robotaxis.
Earlier this year, Argo AI announced that it laid off 150 employees and shut down its autonomous vehicle operation in Washington, DC. The company stated that the layoffs were a result of adjustments made to its business plan to continue on its path toward driverless deployments.
Autonomous deployments across the country
While Lyft and Argo AI are now offering autonomous rides in Austin, Cruise, GM’s self-driving unit, also announced plans to begin giving driverless robotaxi rides in Austin and Pheonix before the end of the year.
Cruise’s first driverless deployment was in San Francisco, where the company recently began charging for fully autonomous robotaxi rides. Cruise currently operates 70 driverless taxis in the city.
Cruise faces competition in Pheonix and San Francisco from Waymo, the self-driving business unit of Google’s parent company Alphabet. Waymo began fully driverless rides to its employees in San Francisco in March 2022, and in August it began fully driverless rides in downtown Phoenix to its trusted tester program members. Waymo had been operating in the Pheonix suburbs since 2020.
Waymo is delivering one of the keynotes at RoboBusiness, which runs Oct. 19-20 in Santa Clara and is produced by WTWH Media, the parent company of The Robot Report. Allison Thackston, technical lead & manager at Waymo, will discuss on Oct. 19 from 9:30-10:15 AM the technical challenges of developing autonomous vehicles. She will also provide updates on Waymo’s ongoing deployments and work. Prior to Waymo, Thackston worked at Nuro, Toyota Research Institute and Oceaneering. She’s also a founding member of the ROS 2 Technical Steering Committee.