Lyft will finally develop its own self-driving cars

Lyft is following Uber into self-driving cars

The company plans to open a research facility in Palo Alto, California later this year and hire hundreds of employees to work with other automakers to build sensor packages and other hardware. Early partners include Waymo, nuTonomy, Jaguar, Land Rover and General Motors.

The company is promising always to use a "hybrid network" in which drivers are on hand to assist the robot vehicles - noting that this is going to remain necessary indefinitely in numerous 350 cities worldwide where Lyft operates and where detailed maps are not available. Lyft also recently inked a deal to work with Alphabet's Waymo (the autonomous vehicle project that spun out of Google). "Unless they're either acquiring someone or have acquired someone, they'd have to be starting from scratch at this point".

In a press-only event in its San Francisco headquarters, Lyft executives said it remains committed to its partnerships while working on its own self-driving technology.

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"We believe Lyft is in the best position to demonstrate what a great overall user experience can be".

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.

As Uber implodes spectacularly, ride-hailing company Lyft is again following its biggest competitor's footsteps, this time diving headfirst into a massive autonomous vehicle project that could someday send its human drivers off to some other corner of the godforsaken sharing economy. It's building an urban transportation ecosystem that's predicated on shared, autonomous vehicles. Taking advantage of its large network of drivers, Lyft is already deploying sensors on their cars to gather such data.

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"Lyft is not getting into the business of manufacturing a auto", Mr. Kapoor said. "It will let us take a whole new look at our cities and urban planning".

Uber had the lead on ride-hailing and self-driving cars for a while, but it's encountered some roadblocks. 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. If a rider meant to go somewhere that an autonomous vehicle wasn't yet ready to navigate, a human driver could respond.

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