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Self-driving Lyft rides to start soon in Austin

Argo AI has about 20 self-driving cars in Austin, and soon you will be able to request a ride from one on the Lyft app. A testing specialist will be in the car.

AUSTIN, Texas — You may have already seen some of the white Ford cars driving around the streets of Austin with the Argo AI emblem. Argo AI started operations in Austin back in 2019, but it is now expanding more of its services to the public. 

The group has about 20 self-driving cars on Austin streets, but for now, they still have a testing specialist in the driver’s seat.

“Our vehicles are designed to be autonomous, so that someday in the future, when they meet the standard for both safety and quality, there will not be testing specialists in the vehicle,” said Sly Majid, the government relations manager for Argo AI.

Right now, a pilot program is underway for autonomous grocery delivery. Argo AI partnered with Walmart and is serving customers in Austin, and soon they will be starting a new pilot program with Lyft.

“The really interesting and cool opportunity that's coming up is that residents in the community will be able to use their Lyft app to hail a ride in an autonomous vehicle,” said Majid.

They did not give an exact date on when this will be launching, but said it would be in the near future. Although an actual person with Argo AI will be in the car to pick up Lyft users, they hope that won’t be the case for long.    

“For right now, we will have a testing specialist in the vehicle, but one day that will change,” said Majid.

Argo AI is the only autonomous vehicle company to have self-driving operations in two cities. The first it they started in was Miami, which already has public Lyft operations underway. It also has done some testing in Pittsburgh, Detroit, Palo Alto, Munich and Hamburg. He said Austin is a perfect place for testing due to how busy it is. He said if they can operate in Austin, then they can operate anywhere.

“So, operating in a community like Austin is great because it really allows us to test the technology,” said Majid. “On any given day and on a street or roadway in Austin, you've got vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, scooters.”

He said they have not ran into any issues with testing in Austin. So, not only will you see more of these cars on the roads, you may soon be riding in the back of one.

“I think people need to see that self-driving technology is not a thing of the future,” said Majid. “It's literally happening today and it's been happening in Austin for years, and they'll have the opportunity to experience it.”

Argo AI said they are operating driverless testing during daytime business hours, in busy neighborhoods. They said they are operating in East Austin, Downtown Austin, the University of Texas area and South Congress Avenue. Ford Motor Company and Argo AI are working together on this endeavor, and Walmart and Lyft are part of the two pilot programs in Austin.


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