Ford aims to have fully self-driving taxis available for commercial use by 2021, and is working with Lyft on technology for letting consumers hail a self-driving taxi as well as assessing which cities it could launch in.
GM invested $500m in Lyft in 2015 and is planning to test hundreds of electric self-driving taxis on public roads. It has also bought driverless tech business Cruise Automation for $581m, and launched Maven, its car-sharing proposition.
Ford’s move comes ahead of a strategy update from Ford’s new chief executive Jim Hackett, who appears to be using his links to technology companies to pave the way for collaborations with Silicon Valley groups.
He was appointed in May, partly because of his knowledge of technology groups and understanding of an industry going through acute transition.
Under his tenure, Ford has already accelerated its electric push, with plans to launch a brand new electric-only brand in China.
The move follows Ford’s investment in February in the new driverless car unit and artificial intelligence business Argo, which has been led by two engineers who were previously at Google and Uber.
The US group has also bought minibus business Chariot in an attempt to move further into offering a form of inner-city transport that may end up supplementing car ownership in some urban areas.
Carmakers and technology companies are increasingly striking up relationships in order to talk through the complicated and expensive tasks of building vehicles that are electric and can drive themselves.
All of the collaborations are non-exclusive, and Lyft’s other partners also include Jaguar Land Rover and even Alphabet’s Waymo business, while Uber counts both Toyota and Volvo as partners or investors.
“Lyft has a network of customers, growing demand for rides and strong knowledge of transportation flow within cities,” said Sherif Marakby, Ford’s head of autonomous vehicles.
“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.”
Ford’s Mr Marakby downplayed the need to be first to set up collaborations. “Some view the opportunity with self-driving vehicles as a race to be first. We are focusing our efforts on building a service based around actual people’s needs and wants.”
Separately, Mr Hackett will present his 100-day plan for Ford on Tuesday, which is expected to focus on electrification and the future of transport as well as shoring up the company’s day-to-day business of selling cars and vans.
He is expected to remove Ford from some small, underperforming vehicle categories as well as investing more heavily in electrification, an area where the group lags behind some of its key rivals.