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Ford-Backed Argo AI Begins Driverless Taxi Operations, & Why This Is Big News

Ford-backed autonomous vehicle company Argo AI recently started driverless vehicle operations in both Miami, Florida, and Austin, Texas, during daylight hours.

“Argo is first to go driverless in two major American cities, safely operating amongst heavy traffic, pedestrians and bicyclists in the busiest of neighborhoods,” said Bryan Salesky, Founder and CEO of Argo AI. “From day one, we set out to tackle the hardest miles to drive — in multiple cities — because that’s where the density of customer demand is, and where our autonomy platform is developing the intelligence required to scale it into a sustainable business.”

Here’s a video Argo made about their new operations (article continues below):

It took the company five years to get to the point where they could trust their vehicles to operate in busy traffic in these cities (two of eight cities they’re now developing autonomous vehicles in). Driverless operations include multiple customer-facing operations, including work with several different commercial partners. For example, Argo has been working with Lyft to find riders in test vehicles since last year instead of offering their own rideshare platform and software.

And really, this is what sets Argo apart in the future of the autonomous vehicle space. Instead of trying to implement their own robotaxi service from end to end, the Argo Autonomy Platform is designed from the ground up to work for a variety of services. Through an application programming interface (API), called Argo Connect, existing and future rideshare, delivery, and logistics companies can make Argo a part of their service. This way, customers and businesses can continue working with companies and software platforms they’re already familiar with, but with the added option of driverless vehicles.

Other options, like Depot Manager and Fleet Scheduler, are also there to serve needs beyond what we typically associate with today’s rideshare and delivery driving services. Companies can skim the surface of Argo’s capabilities, or they can wade deeper and integrate Argo-powered operations deeper into their operations.

Why This Flexible Approach Is Exciting

In many ways, apps like Lyft and Uber show us how the future of this will go. Smartphones used to only use GPS to show you where you are on an on-screen map, orient a compass, and give you directions. Companies later came up with ways to use the capabilities of smartphones to do much more than they initially did. By tying together sensors and connectivity of multiple phones, new low-friction products and services emerged to beat incumbent players in terms of both cost, trustworthiness, and convenience.

Instead of treating Argo’s platform like a robotaxi, they’re taking the same approach smartphones did. Allowing other companies to dive as deep into the platform’s capabilities as they want will allow new products and services to emerge that we really can’t predict today. This will make robotaxis and delivery only the tip of the iceberg over time, allowing for greater convenience, efficiency, and cost-savings to do things we don’t even think of right now.

That approach is a future worth being excited about, even if Argo is still limited to relatively small (but important) geographic areas today.

Featured image provided by Argo AI.

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Written By

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.


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