Ford-backed Argo AI begins driverless taxi operations, and why it’s big news

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Ford-backed autonomous vehicle company Argo AI recently launched driverless vehicle operations in Miami, Florida and Austin, Texas during the day.

“Argo is the first to pass without a driver in two major US cities, operating safely among heavy traffic, pedestrians and cyclists in the busiest neighborhoods,” said Bryan Salesky, Founder and CEO of Argo AI. “From day one, we set out to drive the hardest miles to drive – in multiple cities – because that’s where the density of customer demand is and where our autonomy platform develops the intelligence needed to make it a sustainable business.”

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

It took the company five years to get to the point where it could trust its vehicles to operate in the heavy traffic of these cities (two of the eight cities in which it is currently developing autonomous vehicles). Driverless operations include multiple customer-facing operations, including working with multiple different business partners. For example, Argo has been working with Lyft to find riders in test vehicles since last year instead of offering their own ridesharing platform and software.

And really, that’s what sets Argo apart in the future of the autonomous vehicle space. Instead of trying to implement their own end-to-end robotaxi service, the Argo autonomy platform is designed from the ground up to work with a variety of services. Through an application programming interface (API), called Argo Connect, existing and future ridesharing, delivery and logistics companies can integrate Argo into their service. This way, customers and companies can continue to work with companies and software platforms they already know, but with the added option of driverless vehicles.

Other options, such as Depot Manager and Fleet Scheduler, are also there to meet needs beyond what we typically associate with ridesharing and delivery driving services today. Companies can scratch the surface of Argo’s capabilities, or they can go deeper and integrate Argo-powered operations more deeply into their operations.

Why this flexible approach is exciting

In many ways, apps like Lyft and Uber show us how the future will unfold. Previously, smartphones only used GPS to show you where you are on an onscreen map, orient a compass, and give you directions. Companies then found ways to use the capabilities of smartphones to do much more than they initially did. By linking the sensors and connectivity of multiple phones, new low-friction products and services have emerged to beat incumbents in cost, reliability, and convenience.

Instead of treating Argo’s platform like a robotaxi, they take the same approach as smartphones. Allowing other companies to dive as deep into the capabilities of the platform as they wish will allow new products and services to emerge that we truly cannot predict today. This will make robotaxis and delivery just the tip of the iceberg over time, enabling greater convenience, efficiency, and cost savings to do things we don’t even think about right now.

This approach is a future worth looking forward to, even though Argo is still limited to relatively small (but important) geographies today.

Featured image provided by Argo AI.


 


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