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Ford and ride-sharing service Lyft have announced a new partnership that will aim to make autonomous cars affordable and accessible to the public.

The collaborative agreement will explore several key areas, including how to create a technology platform that can allow the effective dispatch of a driverless vehicle to a customer, which cities are suitable for such a service based on shared data, along with the kind of infrastructure necessary to facilitate and maintain a fleet of autonomous cars.

Both companies say there will be a high priority placed on the safety and dependability of the service in order to build customer trust in driverless vehicles, though Ford will initially deploy a fleet of human-driven vehicles to customers on Lyft’s ride-sharing network to test the new interface and compatibility with the Lyft smartphone app.

At the same time, however, Ford will test driverless vehicles on Lyft’s network – though not with customers – in order to develop the technology. The aim is to have self-driving cars work alongside human-driven cars in the future to satisfy customer demand while also ensuring transportation is “timely and affordable”.

Part of the development will also be based around the Blue Oval’s own Fusion (Mondeo) autonomous prototype (above) and Argo AI’s virtual driver system.

The announcement comes after Ford revealed its plans last year to deploy a driverless taxi fleet by 2021 – although the company’s new CEO has since backed away from that aggressive schedule.

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