Lyft to open engineering center for self-driving cars

Chelsea West
July 22, 2017

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

Lyft Inc has formed a self-driving auto division, company executives said, a bold investment for the second-largest US ride-services firm as it jockeys for position in the highly competitive autonomous vehicle race.

The US-exclusive service Lyft announced plans today to launch its own autonomous vehicle division to help work on its open self-driving system.

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

Lyft sees developing self-driving technology as core to its business. Uber began testing self-driving cars past year. Lyft engineers will collaborate there with autonomous vehicle experts from other companies to build self-driving systems.

The company posted this to their site Thursday in conjunction with a media event in San Francisco, announcing "The open era of autonomous", stressing the partnerships and saying, "Together, we can accelerate the growth of self-driving technology and improve the safety and quality of life in our cities". Members of a key House subcommittee unanimously approved a bill that could establish the first federal laws governing self-driving cars that took place on Wednesday.

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There may be no need to tip you Lyft driver in Boston later this year - because there may no be a driver.

Building autonomous driving systems is a complicated and expensive endeavor, and brings a new layer of complexity to Lyft.

Lyft is opening a self-driving vehicle development facility in Palo Alto, California, called "Level 5", a nod to the designation of fully autonomous vehicles that don't require human supervision. The company is considering equipping some vehicles rented to drivers through the Express Drive program with sensors to allow Lyft to collect more data for its self-driving and mapping research. Lyft said that it will "always" operate a mixed network that provides rides from both human-driven and self-driving cars.

Lyft's focus on finding a balance was also apparent with how it was going to work with its partners.

Long-term, robot taxis will lower ride costs, inspiring more consumers to subscribe to transportation services, rather than owning their own cars, Kapoor said, analogous to how the cheaper rides from Uber and Lyft grew the industry beyond the size of the taxi market.

The company's move to jump into the autonomous vehicle sphere is relatively late compared to the likes of Waymo, Uber, Tesla and others who have spent more time developing the technology, however Lyft says that it is not concerned by this.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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