Lyft announces its own fleet of driverless cars

Lyft announced on Friday that it is creating its own self-driving vehicle division to compete with Uber as the company finds itself vulnerable amid a stream of PR debacles over the past year.

Lyft may be smaller and operate in fewer locations that Uber, but that does not mean the second largest ride-sharing app in the United States can't dabble in some serious R&D.

And Lyft said that if its in-house self-driving technology reaches maturity, it will rely on the automobile industry to build a auto rather than building one themselves.

The ride sharing company has made a decision to start a self-driving division with a facility in Palo Alto, California, rather than continuing to rely on partnerships to gain the technology in what company leadership is calling the Open Platform Initiative, CNBC reported.

Lyft earlier this year introduced an open self-driving platform that allowed vehicle manufacturers and self-driving systems to sync with Lyft's network.

"You can't just leave [self-driving technology] in the hands of others, especially when you have talent and assets that could actually help", Raj Kapoor, chief strategy officer at Lyft, told reporters in a briefing Thursday.

Lyft said Friday it will open an engineering center in California and create a new unit to work on self-driving vehicles. "Some people prefer to have a human driver; in the short run there will be instances that self-driving cars can't handle".


Luc Vincent, VP of Engineering, Lyft said: "It's too strategic for us not to be a player". Or companies could be wary of teaming up with Lyft because it is developing its own self-driving system.

For those not yet trusting of a robot driver (or are simply on a route inaccessible to an autonomous car) Lyft assures customers that it will continue to offer both driverless and human-piloted options for its service in the future.

Lyft had announced in June that it was partnering with nuTonomy, the technology company behind the autonomous cars. However, where other companies have closely guarded their autonomous tech, Lyft is taking a very different approach.

Lyft has said in the past that these drivers could transition into new roles within the company and that the new technology will create new jobs.

It's also banking on its Express Drive program - which allows drivers to rent Lyft vehicles - as a secret weapon.

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.


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