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Lyft Goes All In on Driverless Car Tech

22 July 2017
Lyft Goes All In on Driverless Car Tech

In Lyft's corner, there's GM, Waymo, JLR and a recently announced self-driving pilot program with the Boston-based autonomous auto tech startup Nutonomy.

Lyft is getting bolder in the wake of Uber's unraveling.

The company said it expects there to be hundreds working on the development of the self-driving technology at its Palo Alto facility, which it expects to be open in a few weeks. It aims to be at the forefront of that technology with a new self-driving division and a self-driving system vehicle manufacturers could integrate into their self-driving cars.

"We'll build an entire stack of self-driving technology", Raj Kapoor, Lyft chief strategy officer, said at a media event Thursday at the company's San Francisco headquarters. 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. The latest venture from Lyft, the ride-hailing app, will focus on developing Level 5 autonomous vehicles, or cars that can drive entirely on their own. Now, Lyft's own self-driving cars will operate on that network too. 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.

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.

However, Lyft employs a team to work on regulatory matters and has made in-roads in Washington for other issues in the past. It plans to outfit these vehicles with cameras and sensors to collect data that will ultimately train its self-driving cars. The toolkit will offer mapping software, physical interfaces for drivers and passengers, path planning, and other necessary components of autonomous driving.

A House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee unanimously approved a bill on Wednesday that could establish the first federal laws governing self-driving cars and eliminate the patchwork of state and local regulations governing the fledgling industry.

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.

"When a passenger requests a ride that a self-driving vehicle can complete, we may send one to complete the trip".