Lyft announces its own fleet of driverless cars

Randall Padilla
July 22, 2017

As Lyft puts it, a "diverse set of real-life scenarios helps partners develop their systems around actual experiences and behaviors".

Lyft is getting bolder in the wake of Uber's unraveling. It's announced four such partnerships: General Motors, which is a major investor in Lyft; Waymo, the self-driving division of Google parent Alphabet; British carmaker Jaguar Land Rover; and self-driving startup NuTonomy of Cambridge, Mass. Lyft executives plan to test NuTonomy's self-driving cars as Lyft ride-hailed vehicles in Boston this year.

But Lyft's chief strategy officer Raj Kapoor said Thursday, per the Chron, "Drivers play an important role and will continue to play an important role".

Lyft had announced in June that it was partnering with nuTonomy, the technology company behind the autonomous cars.

Lyft is following Uber into self-driving cars
Lyft is determined to become a player in self-driving cars -- and is opening its own autonomous vehicle center to show it

The company, which will not be manufacturing the actual cars, offered no time line for its self-driving ambitions. It is also unclear how much, if any, revenue the autonomous carmakers will receive from Lyft when their vehicles successfully complete a ride. Lyft's entrance gives engineers interested in self-driving cars a new option.

To that end, the San Francisco-based company is forming a business division, to be staffed with hundreds of Silicon Valley engineers, that will focus exclusively on the development of autonomous vehicle software and hardware. "You're going to see these vehicles on the street", said Taggart Matthiesen, Lyft's senior director of product.

Lyft's "Open Platform Initiative" is created to provide customers with the opportunity to access vehicles from its partners such as Waymo and nuTonomy. Speaking at the Automated Vehicles Symposium in San Francisco recently, Joseph Okpaku, Lyft's vice president of government relations, said the company expects the majority of its rides to be given in autonomous vehicles within the next five years and added that auto ownership will decline as mobility options continue to grow. "For self-driving to work as an industry, there has to be more sharing".

It's also banking on its Express Drive program - which allows drivers to rent Lyft vehicles - as a secret weapon. It visualizes a hybrid network of human-driven and self-driving cars, with the system selecting whichever is best for a passenger's requested route. "We want to lead the way autonomous hardware and software is built in this industry".

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