Lyft launches a self-driving auto division to take on Uber

Tammy Harvey
July 22, 2017

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

Transportation company Lyft announced Friday it's launching a self-driving vehicle division and will develop its own ride-hailing technology. 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.

"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. With almost a million rides every day, Lyft says, that's a valuable trove of scenarios self-driving vehicle AIs could learn from. All these companies will be free to put their cars into service picking up Lyft passengers, and Lyft is hoping to be able to encourage the sharing of information in the creation of the highly detailed city maps that are required to make the technology run smoothly.

"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.

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.

Watch out, Uber: Lyft is opening its own self-driving division.

Lyft is following Uber into self-driving cars

The plan is a reversal for the company, which previously arranged research partnerships with companies already involved in the development of self-driving cars - including Jaguar Land Rover, General Motors, Neutonomy and Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo.

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. It plans to outfit these vehicles with cameras and sensors to collect data that will ultimately train its self-driving cars.

By contrast, Lyft has taken pains to say that its human drivers aren't going away.

In an interview with CNBC, Vincent said: "When a passenger requests a ride that a self-driving auto can complete, we may send one to complete the trip". Lyft also believes that it has a major advantage over automakers when it comes to data collection.

In a blog post, Vincent went even further: "Lyft will always operate a hybrid network, with rides from both human-driven and self-driving cars", he wrote.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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