Ford Motor Co. and Lyft Inc. said Wednesday they would develop self-driving vehicles for the ride-hailing service, adding to a growing number of alliances between auto makers and tech companies jockeying for control of the road.
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The two companies plan to design software that lets Ford vehicles communicate with Lyft's app-based services. Lyft, based in San Francisco, is playing catch-up in some respects to its larger crosstown rival, Uber Technologies Inc., which has been testing robot cars in Pittsburgh, Tempe, Ariz., and parts of California beginning a year ago.
Lyft has struck a series of partnerships with companies developing the technology, including Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc., Tata Motors Ltd.'s Jaguar Land Rover and startups Drive.ai and NuTonomy Inc. And it is forming its own autonomous-car development division, which will be staffed by hundreds of engineers and technicians at a new office in Palo Alto, Calif. Lyft plans to develop its own software and hardware to enable vehicles to maneuver without a human at the wheel.
Lyft also has a partnership with Ford rival General Motors Co., which invested about $500 million in the company and added a board member. Last year, GM said it planned to work with Lyft to put self-driving taxis on the road sometime this year using technology acquired from startup Cruise Automation in a $1 billion deal.
A Lyft spokeswoman said the GM agreement wasn't exclusive.
Last month, new Ford Chief Executive Jim Hackett said his company was evaluating how it could deploy fully autonomous vehicles within the next four years. The Dearborn, Mich., company aims to have vehicles with no steering wheels or pedals and no need for a human driver.
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And Ford plans to invest $1 billion over the next five years into Argo AI, an artificial intelligence company, in which it acquired a majority stake in February.
Lyft, meanwhile, is considering accepting a roughly $1 billion investment from Alphabet, people familiar with the matter have said. It points to the complicated web of relationships in ride hailing, as Google is also an investor in Uber.
Lyft was last valued at about $7.5 billion and has raised about $2.6 billion from investors.
Write to Greg Bensinger at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
September 27, 2017 02:13 ET (06:13 GMT)