Saturday, 20 January, 2018

Lyft changes gears to build its own self-driving tech

Lyft driver car Some day you may not see a human driver when you order a Lyft. Kelly Sullivan Getty Images
Debra Rodriguez | 22 July, 2017, 00:36

"Lyft is not getting into the business of manufacturing a auto", Mr. Kapoor said.

Now Lyft is shifting gears at a vulnerable time for Uber. Vehicle manufacturers and self-driving systems can access the network for insights on a "diverse set of real-life scenarios", based on Lyft's almost one million rides per day. To facilitate those efforts, Lyft said it will open a research facility in Palo Alto, Calif., later this year and hire hundreds of employees to work with other automakers there.

Partners could decide to leave the Open Platform Initiative and develop their own software.

Lyft sees developing self-driving technology as core to its business.

"We want to take a proactive role into pushing the industry into a more open environment", Raj Kapoor, Lyft's chief strategy officer told reporters on Thursday at an event according to the Wall Street Journal.

Lyft executives believe that the self-driving-car race is in its early days, and that companies that may consider one another rivals still have much to gain from collaborating and learning while building the automobile fleets of the future. The result may be a mishmash of autonomous vehicles serving Lyft riders in various markets across the country - an outcome, the company said, that will accelerate the development of self-driving technology. As the Chron notes, recently deposed CEO Travis Kalanick once infamously bragged that the company's self-driving vehicles would allow him to stop having to pay "the dude" in the driver's seat. Individual manufacturers may retain the data collected by their own vehicles, but Lyft declined to say whether, for example, Waymo will be able to study data collected by Nutonomy's vehicles and vice versa. And going it alone with self-driving cars may well be impossible.

A nu Tonomy self-driving taxi drives on the road in its public trial in Singapore
A nu Tonomy self-driving taxi drives on the road in its public trial

Both hope to cut losses by replacing human drivers with autonomous vehicles.

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

Money and engineers aside, Lyft can also offer its prospective new partners access to something Uber won't readily share: the data it collects from human-powered rides.

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

TechCrunch notes that Lyft's strategy may help it more smoothly navigate the rough regulatory waters that are facing autonomous vehicles in the years ahead. 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.

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