Perennial Runner-Up Lyft Joins Race to Develop Self-Driving Cars

Lyft rivals
Lyft is following Uber into self-driving cars
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22 July, 2017

Lyft may be smaller and operate in fewer locations that Uber, but that does not mean the second largest ride-sharing app in the United States can't dabble in some serious R&D. Lyft's new division marks a change in the company's strategy as it shifts from partnerships to its own advancement of self-driving auto technology. It's opening a new facility in Palo Alto, California to house its team and expects several hundred people to work there by the end of 2018.

The so-called Open Platform, which Lyft announced in June, could feature vehicles from other partners as well, such as GM and Jaguar Land Rover, which entered into a deal with Lyft last month.

While Uber Technologies Inc. has embarked on a costly mission to develop self-driving vehicles, rival Lyft Inc. set a different course, relying on a partnerships for what many believe is the future of urban transportation.

Chief strategy officer for Lyft Raj Kapoor told Reuters, "We are putting down the accelerator significantly on investment on this".

On Lyft's "open-self driving" platform, it hopes to offer customers access to vehicles from its partners, such as Waymo and nuTonomy, and will also be offering cars with its own Lyft self-driving technology.

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

Lyft's self-driving headquarters will be called the Level 5 Engineering Center, named for the level of self-driving that is entirely autonomous, compared to cars that require some human attention.

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick famously infuriated drivers by saying the company would save money once it no longer had to pay the "dude" in the driver's seat.

Luc Vincent, VP of Engineering, Lyft said: "It's too strategic for us not to be a player".

The decision follows the company's plan to move forward from its regular partnerships in the self-driving field and instead enter the market with its own technology.

As companies like Google, Tesla, Ford, and Uber have demonstrated in recent years, self-driving cars are increasingly capable machines. But Lyft now seems to be setting expectations that the transition to self-driving could be a lengthy one, cautioning that there are numerous circumstances - rain, construction, traffic and nighttime - that could faze autonomous cars. It is also unclear how much, if any, revenue the autonomous carmakers will receive from Lyft when their vehicles successfully complete a ride. It's also not clear if they'd go for a more traditional role rather than the freedom they once enjoyed making their own hours as a driver. "We're on our way to creating a self-driving system".

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