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Lyft self-driving vehicle plans put it in the big leagues

22 July 2017

Lyft said the efforts will develop hardware and software systems useable for self-driving vehicles.

Lyft is getting bolder in the wake of Uber's unraveling.

The ride sharing company has chose 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.

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"We are putting down the accelerator significantly on investment on this", Raj Kapoor, chief strategy officer for Lyft, told reporters at its San Francisco headquarters.

As with other companies that have been publicly testing self-driving cars, Lyft riders who participate in the program will be accompanied by test drivers sitting in the front seats of the vehicles. "Some people prefer to have a human driver; in the short run there will be instances that self-driving cars can't handle". It is also unclear how much, if any, revenue the autonomous carmakers will receive from Lyft when their vehicles successfully complete a ride.

In other words, Lyft is enabling its partners-including GM, Waymo, nuTonomy, and Jaguar Land Rover-to outfit their cars with its autonomous technology.

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Lyft has already said that it will open its ride-hailing network so self-driving companies can put their robot cars into service on it in the future to pick up passengers.

The executives said on Thursday the company would soon open a facility in Palo Alto, California, that would eventually be staffed by "several hundred" engineers. Among Lyft's partners are Waymo, Google's self driving vehicle division; General Motors; nuTonomy, a self-driving auto startup out of MIT; and Jaguar Land Rover. Also, they note that there could be a point down the road when self-driving "kits" can be created and given to drivers to convert their existing cars to being autonomous. It plans to outfit these vehicles with cameras and sensors to collect data that will ultimately train its self-driving cars.

Lyft, in conjunction with nuTonomy, plans to have autonomous cars on the road in Boston by the end of this year. And together, we will continue to drive toward a single, shared objective: "to build the world's best transportation ecosystem", said Luc Vincent, Lyft's vice president of engineering.

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Uber's approach is closer to that of Apple: Both companies want to control most of the product, whether the software or the hardware.

Lyft self-driving vehicle plans put it in the big leagues