News In Context

Ford, Lyft and Argo AI To Deploy 1000 Robotaxis In U.S. Cities

Self-driving technology platform company Argo AI, carmaker Ford and ride-hail company Lyft plan to deploy at least 1,000 robotaxis in multiple U.S. cities.

The partnership marks the first large-scale U.S. collaboration between a carmaker, a self-driving developer and a ride-hailing company. The companies hope to gain valuable insights on how to turn robotaxis into a commercially viable business – a challenge no company has yet answered

As part of the agreement, Argo AI, which is backed by Ford and Volkswagen  will receive anonomized data on passenger trips and safety incidents. That will allow Argo to optimize its technology and routing to avoid unsafe streets, Argo CEO Bryan Salesky said in a blog post.

In exchange, Lyft will receive a 2.5% stake in the company. At Argo’s most recent valuation of $7.5 billion, that equity slice would be worth $187.5 million. Argo, which is currently testing autonomous vehicles in several U.S. cities, in June said it plans to list publicly within the next year. read more

Ford will fuel, service and clean the robotaxi fleets under the partnership.

The service is expected to launch in Miami, Florida later this year and in Austin, Texas next year with a safety driver inside the Ford Escape hybrid vehicles The first truly driverless cars are expected to launch in 2023.

In traditional ride-hailing services, human drivers make up an estimated 80% of the total per mile cost, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan, underscoring the companies’ interest in a driverless future. But self-driving vehicles need to recoup their expensive development costs and still need to be managed and maintained.

“Our job is to generate the maximum revenue out of each of these vehicles by getting the highest utilization,” said Lyft’s Kelman.

Lyft in April sold its own self-driving technology unit to Toyota Motor for $550 million to focus instead on providing services such as routing, consumer interface and fleet management. In December Uber sold its self-driving unit to startup Aurora, which is backed by Hyundai and Amazon.

Lyft already allows consumers to book rides in self-driving vehicles in select cities in partnership with Alphabet ,Waymo and Motional, the joint venture between Hyundai Motor Co and Aptiv.

The race to deploy self-driving vehicles is heating up the world over. Ford said in February it plans to invest $429 billion in autonomous and electric vehicles through 2025.General Motors CEO Mary Barra said during the company’s first-quarter earnings call that she expects to offer consumers autonomous vehicles this decade.Volkswagen will start testing its new autonomous vehicles in Germany this summer. The German automaker’s electric ID Buzz vans will use hardware and software developed by Argo AI. The aim is to launch a commercial delivery and micro-transit service in Germany by 2025.

 Einride, one of The Innovator’s 2021 startups of the week,  is targeting the autonomous truck market in Europe and the U.S. The Swedish startup ,known for its unusual-looking electric and autonomous pods that are designed to carry freight, raised aa $110 million round in May to help fund its expansion in Europe and into the United States. The Series B round, which far exceeds its previous raises of $10 million in 2020 and $25 million in 2019, included new investors Temasek, Soros Fund Management LLC, Northzone and Maersk Growth

Meanwhile, China’s fast-growing AV road testing and favorable regulatory environment make it an ideal market for AV deployment.

In June Chinese Internet giant Baidu announced that it was partnering with state-owned automaker BAIC Group to build 1,000 driverless cars over the next three years .Baidu has been testing robotaxis in a number of major cities across China including Shanghai, but the new partnership is an attempt to commercialize autonomous taxis on a mass scale.

This will pit the company against ride-hailing giant Didi, which is also developing its own robotaxis. Chinese Companies like SAIC-IVECO Hongyan and newly public TuSimple are already testing some 50 autonomous trucks.

In other news this week:


Tesla Plans To Open Its Charging Network To Other EVs

Tesla plans to open its network of superchargers to other electric vehicles later this year, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said on Twitter. The electric-car maker’s fast charging network, with over 25,000 superchargers globally, has given it a competitive edge. Meanwhile, other carmakers have formed alliances or invested in startups for networks as they rush new electric vehicle entrants to market.


Startup Claims Breakthrough In Duration Batteries Could Have Big Ramifications For Storing Energy

A four-year-old U.S. startup backed by ArcelorMittal and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a climate investment fund whose investors include Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and founder Jeff Bezos, says it has built an inexpensive battery that can discharge power for days using one of the most common elements on Earth: iron. Form Energy says its batteries will be capable of solving one of the most elusive problems facing renewable energy: cheaply storing large amounts of electricity to power grids when the sun isn’t shining and wind isn’t blowing. If all continues to go according to plan, its iron-air batteries will be capable of affordable, long-duration power storage by 2025.


Pivot Bio Releases Latest Nitrogen-Fixation Product

Pivot Bio has raised $430 million in funding after seeing its revenue increase threefold since the start of this year.The Berkeley, California-based startup is also releasing its latest nitrogen-fixation product, which it says will allow corn growers to cut out 40 pounds of synthetic nitrogen use per acre. Pivot Bio’s technology ‘programs’ the DNA of microbes which naturally occur in the soil so that they produce more nitrogen. The startup then mass-produces these microbes, bottles them, and sells them direct to farmers, who can apply the product — marketed under the name Proven — to their fields. Pivot Bio’s engineered microbes, on the other hand, can ‘sense’ when the plants which are growing in the soil they inhabit require more nutrients. This way they only release nitrogen in the amounts that it is needed.


Biden Administration Blames Hackers Tied to China For Cyberattack Spree

The Biden administration publicly blamed hackers affiliated with China’s main intelligence service for a far-reaching cyberattack on Microsoft Corp. email software this year, part of a global effort by dozens of nations to condemn Beijing’s malicious cyber activities.The U.S. government has high confidence that hackers tied to the Ministry of State Security, or MSS, carried out the unusually indiscriminate hack of Microsoft Exchange Server software that emerged in March, senior officials said. In addition, four Chinese nationals were indicted over a range of separate hacking intrusions dating back a decade that allegedly stole corporate and research secrets from firms and universities around the world. Three of the nationals were described as MSS officers, while a fourth was said to be employed at a Chinese front company that aided the hacking.  Chinese diplomats in countries including the UK, Canada and New Zealand issued statements on Tuesday slamming the allegations as “groundless” and a “malicious smear”.

U.S. Announces New Cybersecurity Requirements For Critical Pipeline  Owners

The Department of Homeland Security announced new rules July 20 that require owners and operators of critical pipelines that transport hazardous liquids and natural gas to implement “urgently needed protections against cyber intrusions.”

It was the second security directive issued by the department’s Transportation Security Administration since May, after a hack of the Colonial Pipeline disrupted fuel supplies in the southeastern United States for days.

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About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.