Lyft has welcomed one more powerful ally to help it achieve its dreams of adding self-driving cars to its ride-hailing network: Ford. In his announcement post on Medium, Ford Autonomous Vehicle VP Sherif Marakby says the partnership will help them figure out how to tweak their autonomous AI platform to be able to seamlessly connect with the ride-hailing network's. By sharing data with each other, they hope to figure out the best cities to launch a ride-hailing fleet full of autonomous vehicles, as well as to conjure up the framework necessary to maintain that fleet. Their end goal is to give passengers a way to hail self-driving cars as easily as they would a normal one.
Ford, which has been developing its self-driving tech for a while, joins the growing number of partners in Lyft's Open Platform Initiative, which already includes heavyweights like Waymo, General Motors, Land Rover and Jaguar. Instead of developing its own self-driving technology, Lyft aimed to forge partnerships with multiple automakers from the start.
Chief strategy officer Raj Kapoor admitted to The New York Times that the company isn't capable of developing and deploying self-driving cars en masse on its own. "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," he said. "It's one thing to do tests with one or two cars. It's a whole different world doing this on a large scale." As NYT noted, though, Lyft's partners have their own goals that could cause conflicts along the way. GM is already testing its own ride-hailing network, and it won't come as a huge surprise if Waymo launches its own.
Ford, however, hasn't made any indication that it intends to launch its own ride-hailing service. Marakby says the company has already begun working with Lyft to program their systems to be able to communicate with one another. After that, the automaker plans to deploy self-driving cars as part of Lyft's network for testing, but they won't be taking passengers until both companies are absolutely sure that their system works.