Transportation

Argo AI launches driverless autonomous vehicle testing in Miami, Austin

Comment

Argo AI vehicle
Image Credits: Argo AI

Argo AI, the autonomous vehicle technology company backed by Ford and Volkswagen, is launching driverless testing operations in Miami and Austin, a significant milestone for the startup that illustrates its progress toward commercialization.

Argo’s announcement Tuesday follows a period of consolidation within the industry that has left just a handful of large, capital-rich companies in the U.S. — all creeping toward driverless commercial-scale operations. While a number of competitors such as Cruise, Waymo and Zoox are fixated on San Francisco (Waymo also has a driverless operation in Phoenix), Argo has turned its attention to other cities like Austin and Miami, where the regulatory environment is less restrictive and commercial partners, tech and talent resources are still plentiful.

Argo said it will be running its driverless operations in Miami and Austin during “daytime business hours.” Those hours will extend over time, and eventually include evening, as testing continues, according to a spokesperson. For now, the service is limited to company employees, who will have access to the service via an internally developed Argo app.

Argo AI Driverless gif
Image Credits: Argo AI

Argo is working with Ford to launch commercial pilots in both of these cities, including an integration with Lyft’s ride-hailing platform and a grocery delivery program with Walmart. Argo’s pilot programs with Lyft and Walmart will continue to have a human safety operator behind the wheel for now. Over time, the driverless operations will be integrated with its commercial partners, a spokesperson said. Under state law in Florida and Texas, commercial fleets can charge for driverless services.

Competitors like Waymo and Cruise have begun fully driverless operations in Arizona and California, respectively. However, they operate their own robotaxi and delivery services, whereas Argo sees itself as a one-stop autonomous driving shop for businesses. Argo aims to sell the self-driving system it developed to businesses as well as offer a suite of products like fleet management, customer support and scheduling to those that want these other services.

Argo’s driverless operations likely won’t stop at Miami and Austin. The company is actively testing its autonomous vehicles in Palo Alto, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C. and Hamburg, Germany. In April, Argo announced plans to establish a closed-course track in the SC Technology and Aviation Center in Greenville County, South Carolina. The track, its fourth closed-course facility, will be dedicated to highway-speed testing as the company advances toward commercial autonomous operations across multiple cities.

The company says testing in multiple major cities gives it the edge it needs to scale its autonomy platform into a sustainable business.

“Argo is able to scale because we have marshaled an extraordinary amount of data from diverse use cases and locations,” Brett Browning, chief technology officer, wrote in a blog post. “We’ve focused on analyzing real-world learnings from operating in the busiest neighborhoods of eight cities on two continents, facing complex traffic scenarios, including unprotected turns and intersections with occlusions, cyclists, and people walking outside crosswalks. We also analyzed seemingly endless data to optimize day and nighttime driving, since middle- and last-mile deliveries tend to happen during the day, and ride-shares span day and night.”

Brownings’ comments on middle-mile delivery are particularly noteworthy. Last month, Ford CEO Jim Farley noted during a Q1 2022 earnings call that the company was becoming more focused on “middle-mile” delivery.

“We’re getting more and more interested as a company, maybe a bit of a strategic shift, on goods movement,” Farley said at the time. “It’s aligned with our commercial vehicle business and our customers feel they’re getting more and more interested in middle mile, specifically.”

What’s next for Argo?

While the company was tight-lipped about other potential partnerships for its driverless operations, there are signals that Argo is not stopping with Miami and Austin. The company has previously said it plans to expand its delivery pilot with Walmart into Washington, D.C. later this year, so that might be one of Argo’s next targets for removing the driver.

However, we’re more likely to see Argo expand its reach in California, notably San Diego, and perhaps deeper into Texas.

In the Bay Area, Argo has been offering free rides to the public — in vehicles that have a human safety operator in the front seat — since July 2021 when it secured the Drivered AV pilot permit issued by the California Public Utilities Commission.

Argo applied in February for a driverless testing permit with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which would allow it to test its metal against the top competition in the Bay Area. Per its application, Argo is aiming to test seven of its fully autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrids in Los Altos, which is in the Palo Alto area, a part of town that Argo knows well after testing there since 2019.

According to the application, Argo’s vehicles can drive on public roads — including on freeways, highways, city streets, suburban and rural roads, parking lots and garages — at speeds up to 65 miles per hour. The self-driving Fords can operate 24 hours per day during all seasons and lighting conditions, as well as in light rain. The AV system’s only constraints are off-road operations, snow, sleet, hail, dense fog and extreme environmental conditions.

The application has not yet been approved, but if and when Argo nabs the permit, it will join the ranks of Cruise, Waymo, Apollo, AutoX, Nuro, WeRide and Zoox.

Outside of the Bay Area, Argo appears to have its sights set on San Diego. Argo is hiring multiple personnel in San Diego to manage and test an autonomous fleet, including an AV operations lead, an AV system map specialist and an AV system test specialist, according to the careers page on Argo’s website.

More TechCrunch

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.