Argo AI robotic taxis do without human safety drivers in Miami and Austin

Argo AI launches driverless operations in Miami and Austin.

Courtesy: Argo AI

Robotaxi startup Argo AI said Tuesday it had begun operating its autonomous test vehicles without human safety drivers in two U.S. cities — Miami and Austin — a major milestone for the Ford- and Volkswagen-backed company.

For the time being, these driverless vehicles will not carry paying customers. But they’ll be deployed during daylight, during business hours, in densely populated neighborhoods, and Argo AI staff will commute, who can summon the vehicles via a test app.

CEO Bryan Salesky said the company has been working on developing self-driving vehicles that can operate safely in cities since its inception in 2016.

“From day one, we set out to tackle the toughest miles – across multiple cities – because that’s where the density of customer demand lies and our autonomy platform is developing the intelligence needed to make it a sustainable business,” Salesky said .

Argo has tested its self-driving technology on roads in eight cities across the US and Europe, using heavily modified Ford and Volkswagen vehicles with previously safety-sensitive drivers on board.

Most Argo robotaxis still only transport Argo AI employees. But since December, some of the company’s vehicles have been available to passengers in Miami Beach through Lyft’s ridesharing network.

Lyft owns about a 2.5% stake in Argo AI. Vehicles available through Lyft will continue to have human-safety drivers for the time being, the company said.

Argo AI is one of several companies working to deploy robotic taxis on a large scale in cities across the US and elsewhere — none have yet reached the point of transporting fare-paying passengers at scale, 24/7, in busy neighborhoods.

General Motors-backed Cruise, a key rival of Argo AI, has started offering driverless taxi services to the public in San Francisco, but service is currently limited to late night hours and the company isn’t charging for the rides yet. Waymo, Alphabet’s subsidiary that grew out of the groundbreaking Google Self-Driving Car project, operates driverless taxi cabs with passengers in and around Phoenix, Arizona. Argo AI robotic taxis do without human safety drivers in Miami and Austin

Jane Marczewski

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