As Self-Driving Car Partnerships Multiply, Ford and Lyft Join Forces

For most of its existence, the automotive industry has been secretive, siloed, and steeped in cut-throat competition. However, as autonomous vehicle collaborations proliferate, the old-school approach is quickly falling by the wayside.

That was evident in a pair of blog posts published late Tuesday that spelled out a new partnership between Ford and San Francisco-based ridesharing company Lyft. What makes this announcement even more interesting is the fact that GM—another Lyft partner as well as a major Ford competitor—is one of the ridesharing giant’s biggest patrons, having agreed to invest $500 million in Lyft in a “strategic alliance” to create a network of on-demand autonomous vehicles last year. As the New York Times reported today, Lyft’s partnership ethos seems to be the more, the merrier.

With its open platform initiative, which invites companies developing autonomous technologies to “plug in” to its network and access its data to test their innovations, Lyft has arguably done more to facilitate collaboration than most entities jockeying for position in the race to develop self-driving vehicles.

Although neither Ford nor Lyft offered any details regarding the financial value of the partnership, Ford’s post included a few specifics regarding the nature of the work they’ll be doing together: “Lyft has a network of customers, growing demand for rides and strong knowledge of transportation flow within cities. We have experience with autonomous vehicle technology development and large scale manufacturing. Both companies have fleet management and big data experience. With our combined capabilities, we believe we can effectively share information to help make the best decisions for the future.”

Lyft framed the partnership similarly, if more expansively: “Our teams will work together on a variety of opportunities to [effect] positive change through transportation and mobility. … Our two companies share a core belief that the future of transportation will meaningfully reshape how cities are designed, and improve the lives of people who live there.”

So, for those keeping score, Ford now has autonomous vehicle-related partnerships with a number of companies, including Pivotal, Argo AI, and Lyft. Lyft has partnerships with GM, Ford, NuTonomyWaymo (Google’s mobility arm), and others. GM is collaborating with Lyft and Cruise Automation. Ford and GM also are both members of Mcity, the University of Michigan’s replica urban environment and research facility used to test autonomous vehicle technologies.

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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