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Lyft to Develop its Own Self-Driving Car Tech to Compete With Uber

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【Summary】Lyft is opening a Silicon Valley research facility in Palo Alto, California and plans to heavily recruit new engineering and technical people in the coming weeks to develop self-driving technology.

Original Eric Walz    Jul 21, 2017 12:31 PM PT
Lyft to Develop its Own Self-Driving Car Tech to Compete With Uber

Lyft is opening a Silicon Valley research facility in Palo Alto, California and plans to heavily recruit new engineering and technical people in the coming weeks to develop self-driving technology.

In a post on Medium, the new division's vice president Luc Vincent writes that 10% of the company's engineers are working on the tech and that that number will only increase as the project goes on. "We aren't thinking of our self-driving division as a side project," he told the New York Times. "It's core to our business."

"Every day, there are over one million rides completed on our network in over 350 cities," Vincent says. "This translates into tens of millions of miles on a daily basis." He further says that the company is already using said data to figure out what's going on.

Open Platform Initiative

Lyft is taking a markedly different approach from Uber. While Uber's self-driving plans have mostly been a solo effort, Lyft has announced what it calls its Open Platform Initiative, a way to develop autonomous vehicle technology in conjunction with automakers and technology companies.

"We want to bring the whole industry together with this, and we think there's a unique opportunity in time right now for Lyft to become a leader while doing it," said Raj Kapoor, Lyft's chief strategy officer, in a press event at the company's San Francisco headquarters.

Lyft is partnering with General Motors, Land Rover, Jaguar, nuTonomy and Waymo to share its driving data. It's an effort to rapidly accelerate the machine learning needed to keep self-driving cars on the road.

Lyft executives believe that the self-driving-car race is in its early days, and that companies that may consider one another rivals still have much to gain from collaborating and learning while building the automobile fleets of the future.

The news does not mean that Lyft is abandoning its current business model. Vincent says that there will "always" be human driven vehicles, but a ride will be analyzed to see if it'd be a better candidate for an autonomous trip instead.

Rather than outright saying the reasoning is to capitalize on Uber's recent litany of missteps, Lyft says its ambitions are a fair bit greener, citing research about the impact an electric self-driving fleet could have on carbon dioxide output. "[Americans] could reduce CO2 emissions by a gigaton every single year."

More than that, Vincent believes that this could dramatically reduce the number of cars on the road, and thus make our current infrastructure a bit archaic. "It's a future where we can devote less of our space to roads, concrete and parking lots -- and more to parks, playgrounds, homes and local businesses.

"It's a future where we build our communities and our world around people, not cars."


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