Argo AI starts running without a driver in Miami and Austin.

Provided by: Argo AI

Startup Robotaxi Argo AI said on Tuesday that it has started operating its stand-alone test vehicles without human safety in two U.S. cities – Miami and Austin – an important milestone for the company, which is backed by Ford and Volkswagen.

At the moment, these cars without a driver will not carry paying customers. But they will work during daylight hours, during working hours, in dense urban neighborhoods, transporting Argo AI employees who can call vehicles through the test app.

CEO Brian Saleski said the company is working on developing self-driving vehicles that can operate safely in cities since its inception in 2016.

“From day one, we set out to overcome the most difficult kilometers – in several cities – because that’s where customer demand density is, and where our stand-alone platform develops the intelligence needed to scale it into a sustainable business,” Saleski said.

Argo is testing its self-driving technology on the streets in eight cities in the US and Europe, using heavily modified Ford and Volkswagen cars with hitherto drivers that ensure human safety.

Most Argo robotic taxis still only have Argo AI employees. But since December, some of the company’s vehicles have become available to passengers in Miami Beach through Lyft’s travel network.

Lyft owns about 2.5% of Argo AI shares. Drivers for human safety will remain in the vehicles available through Lyft, the company said.

Argo AI is one of several companies working to deploy robot taxis in U.S. cities and elsewhere – none of them have yet achieved the ability to carry paid passengers in large quantities around the clock in busy urban areas.

Cruise, which supports General Motors, a key competitor to Argo AI, has begun offering taxi-free services to the public in San Francisco, but the service is currently limited to late hours and the company is not yet charging for travel. Waymo, a subsidiary of Alphabet that grew out of the pioneering Google Self-Driving Car project, drives unmanned taxis with passengers in and around Phoenix, Arizona.

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