Lyft Opens its First European Hub to Develop Autonomous Driving Technology

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【Summary】San Francisco-based ride hailing company Lyft, Uber’s main rival in the U.S, has announced its first official expansion into Europe. However, Lyft will not to pick up passengers yet, it has opened its office in Munich, Germany to work on autonomous driving technology.

  Eric Walz  ·  Jan 31, 2018 1:33 PM PT
author: Eric Walz   

MUNICH — San Francisco-based ride hailing company Lyft, Uber's main rival in the U.S, has announced its first official expansion into Europe. However, Lyft will not to pick up passengers yet, it has opened its office in Munich, Germany to work on autonomous driving technology.

The company said that the hub's main focus will be self-driving vehicles, with a "talented group of new colleagues".  Workers there will develop advanced localization and geometric mapping technologies to aid its autonomous driving effort.

"They'll build the layer of software that helps our self-driving cars know precisely where they are and what's around them," Lyft said in a blog post. It didn't say whether it plans to start its ride-hailing service in the city, after it announced an expansion to Toronto, its first outside the U.S., in November.

The technology Lyft is referred to is SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) for level 5 autonomous cars. SLAM works by updating a map of an unknown environment, while simultaneously keeping track of a autonomous car's location within it.

Lyft Backed by General Motors

In 2016, General Motors invested $500 million into Lyft as part of a $1 billion investment, while also revealing its own plans to build self-driving cars. Last summer, Lyft announced its own self-driving car division before unveiling further plans with Ford to get autonomous vehicles onto roads by 2021.

Lyft has been ramping up its partnerships to keep pace with rivals such as Uber in the autonomous vehicle space. Earlier this month at CES, Lyft partnered with self-driving car tech startup Aptiv, and launched a passenger pickup service in Las Vegas using eight BMW 5-Series vehicles.

Lyft is joining BMW in the area. BMW is also headquartered in Munich, and announced a new autonomous driving development center last year.

Munich certainly offers close proximity to a major automotive company that is known to be investing heavily in self-driving cars and which only a few weeks ago displayed a close alliance with Lyft in Las Vegas. Munich also happens to be a major university city, which might make it easier for Lyft to recruit talent.

Lyft has now raised more than $4 billion in funding, including a $1 billion round a few months ago led by Alphabet's investment arm CapitalG. Lyft also announced its first international expansion in November, starting with Toronto, Canada. Lyft also met with London transport officials last year to discuss possible expansion of its service.


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