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Self-Driving Taxis to Arrive in Miami-Dade This Winter

Ford, Lyft and Argo AI announced that they would begin deploying autonomous ‘robotaxis’ as early as this winter. But for now, the self-driving vehicles will have a safety driver and technology monitor in the front seats.

(TNS) — Miami-Dade, Fla., just got one step closer to a future filled with driverless vehicles.

Ford, Lyft and the autonomous driving technology group Argo AI announced Wednesday they would begin deploying self-driving ridehail cars in Miami-Dade, as well as Austin, Tex., this winter.

For now, passengers who order up self-driving Lyfts will not be alone in the vehicle: A safety driver ready to take over the wheel, as well as a technology monitor, will be in the front seats. Choosing a so-called “robotaxi” comes at no extra charge and there are no preset routes.

Fewer than 100 vehicles will be available initially, and the exact areas where the Lyfts will be made available have not yet been selected.

The announcement is a significant step forward toward a long-promised future where ridehail vehicles pick up passengers on their own. And it once again puts Miami-Dade at the forefront, three years after Ford first announced it had selected the Magic City as a primary testbed for its self-driving vehicle technology. Ford and Argo AI officials have previously said they chose Miami-Dade not only because it allowed them to test their technology year-round, but because driving conditions here are notoriously unpredictable.

“As us locals like to say: ‘If you can drive in Miami, you can drive anywhere,’” Alex Buznego, Ford’s Miami-based autonomous vehicle market manager for Ford Motor Company, wrote in March.

By exposing Argo AI’s self-driving system to the unique and challenging situations in Miami, he said, Ford gets closer to scaling its technology to other cities across the country.

“Every day, Argo AI encounters a variety of scenarios that we don’t experience in other cities. Miami is known for heavy traffic, fast driving cars and many pedestrians and cyclists,” Buznego said.

The deployment represents the first commercial operation in a major city in the race to roll out autonomous fleets. The only other ridehailing operation currently operating continuously is in Chandler, Ariz., near Phoenix, where Google parent company Alphabet has set up a self-driving minivan service to ferry locals.
“This collaboration marks the first time all the pieces of the autonomous vehicle puzzle have come together this way,“ Lyft co-founder and CEO Logan Green said in a statement on Wednesday. “Each company brings the scale, knowledge and capability in their area of expertise that is necessary to make autonomous ride-hailing a business reality.”

Over the next five years, the trio hope to use what they’ve learned in Miami-Dade to deploy at least 1,000 autonomous vehicles in multiple markets.

“These three companies share a belief that autonomous vehicles will be a key enabler for a cleaner, safer and more efficient urban mobility landscape,” said Scott Griffith, CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles & Mobility Businesses, in a statement.

©2021 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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