Lyft says it will build its own driverless vehicle technology

Auto Lyft Is Working on Its Own Self Driving Car Technology
By Vamien Mc Kalin

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

Now Lyft is shifting gears at a vulnerable time for Uber.

Lyft is developing its own self-driving auto technology, joining rideshare rival Uber and a host of automakers in chasing driverless vehicles.

"We are putting down the accelerator significantly on investment on this", Raj Kapoor, chief strategy officer for Lyft, told reporters at its San Francisco headquarters.

Although Lyft has said it will remain in those partnerships, its new model may be similar to that of competitor Uber, which has to date dedicated many millions of dollars into self-driving technology with the help of partners that include Volvo. And going it alone with self-driving cars may well be impossible.

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Passengers a bit wary of being among the first to experience a ride in a driverless vehicle should be advised that there will be test drivers sitting in the front seats of the driverless cars - just in case. "Lyft is also uniquely positioned to build technology in collaboration with partners in a way that makes it possible to roll out self-driving cars at scale in the fastest, safest, most efficient way", Lyft Vice President of Engineering Luc Vincent wrote in a Medium post announcing Lyft's plans. However, where other companies have closely guarded their autonomous tech, Lyft is taking a very different approach. "We're on our way to creating a self-driving system". Partners could decide to leave the Open Platform Initiative and develop their own software.

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.

Lyft imagines self-driving cars will take over the road gradually. It envisages a combination hardware and software kit, with which third-party manufacturers such as automakers could easily upgrade their cars to delete the driver.

By contrast, Lyft has taken pains to say that its human drivers aren't going away. 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. Unlike its far larger rival, Uber Technologies Inc, which has tackled everything from food delivery to flying cars, and expanded overseas, Lyft has operated strictly as a ride service for people in the United States.

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