Lyft announces plan to develop self-driving cars

Javier Stokes
July 22, 2017

That'll include computer vision algorithms, mapping AI, and all of the various systems for pulling together inputs from a range of sensors.

Also unlike Uber, Lyft is being careful not to write drivers out of the equation. 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.

"We want to take a proactive role into pushing the industry into a more open environment", Raj Kapoor, Lyft's chief strategy officer said at a media event Thursday. And Lyft will continue to work in tandem with other stakeholders developing self-driving technology through that platform. Some industry officials fear that a lack of uniform rules and expectations could hinder the development of self-driving cars by effectively preventing vehicles from crossing state lines.

"We're building a way for third parties to plug their self-driving cars into our network", said Luc Vincent, vice president of engineering at Lyft.

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.

For both Uber and Lyft, self-driving cars are a frontier crucial to their success. But Lyft hasn't said what'll happen to those drivers after the robots fully take over.

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Lyft has announced plans to develop its own self-driving vehicle capabilities so it can begin offering autonomous rides by the end of the year in some locations.

As the driverless auto program expands and becomes more battle tested - and accepted by passengers - Lyft said it will still have a need for "drivers".

The announcement comes after Lyft earlier this year introduced what it calls "the world's first open self-driving platform".

The new self-driving division will consist of hundreds of employees dedicated to creating a complete self-driving software and hardware kit that can be integrated into vehicles provided by partners.

Driverless cars will be chosen for particular customers by Lyft depending on traffic, weather, route and time of day, the company said.

Uber had the lead on ride-hailing and self-driving cars for a while, but it's encountered some roadblocks.

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