Lyft too joins the self-driving car race

By : |July 24, 2017 0

Ride hailing startup Lyft has announced that it is creating its own self-driving car division that would compete with Uber. The company would soon open a facility in Palo Alto, California that would be staffed by “several hundred” engineers who will collaborate with autonomous vehicle experts from other companies to build self-driving systems.

Luc Vincent, Lyft’s vice president of engineering, detailed the company’s plans for its open self-driving car system in a Medium post. Lyft is working on something that resembles a 3D map that will show passengers their car’s route, the road ahead, and what the car is seeing around it. The company is hoping the map will help passengers feel more comfortable in – and ceding control to – driverless cars.

“We aren’t thinking of our self-driving division as a side project. It’s core to our business,” Luc Vincent, vice president of autonomous technology at Lyft, wrote in a blog post. “That’s why 10 percent of our engineers are already focused on developing self-driving technology — and we’ll continue to grow that team in the months ahead.”

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Lyft is not, for now, developing its own LIDAR technology, but didn’t say whether that would change in the future. If Lyft did, it could potentially put it in competition with partners like Waymo that are developing their own LIDARs.

Lyft isn’t new to the autonomous car space. It has been working in partnerships with Alphabet’s self-driving unit Waymo, technology company Nutonomy, and automakers General Motors Co and Jaguar Land Rover. Lyft says that its new initiative will not affect these partnerships.

Lyft’s move into self-driving car division comes at a time when Uber faces a lawsuit from Waymo for stealing its trade secrets.

Lyft is cautious to add that it doesn’t see self-driving cars replacing its drivers — it rather hopes to create a “hybrid” network where passengers can choose either. “When a passenger requests a ride that a self-driving car can complete, we may send one to complete the trip. If that person needs to go somewhere self-driving cars are unable to navigate, or their needs call for a different level of service, they will have a driver,” Vincent said in his post.

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