Economy

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

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

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

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

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 will build sensor packages and leave the majority of the vehicle development to its partners, it said.

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

Chief strategy officer for Lyft Raj Kapoor told Reuters, "We are putting down the accelerator significantly on investment on this".

As Uber implodes spectacularly, ride-hailing company Lyft is again following its biggest competitor's footsteps, this time diving headfirst into a massive autonomous vehicle project that could someday send its human drivers off to some other corner of the godforsaken sharing economy.

Lyft is developing its own self-driving auto technology, joining rideshare rival Uber and a host of automakers in chasing driverless vehicles. Kalanick did however step down as CEO last month.

The company, which will not be manufacturing the actual cars, offered no time line for its self-driving ambitions.

The decision follows the company's plan to move forward from its regular partnerships in the self-driving field and instead enter the market with its own technology. Unlike its far larger rival, Uber Technologies Inc, which has tackled everything from food delivery to flying cars, and expanded overseas, Lyft has operated strictly as a ride service for people in the United States. The company is considering equipping some vehicles rented to drivers through the Express Drive program with sensors to allow Lyft to collect more data for its self-driving and mapping research.

The company is promising always to use a "hybrid network" in which drivers are on hand to assist the robot vehicles - noting that this is going to remain necessary indefinitely in numerous 350 cities worldwide where Lyft operates and where detailed maps are not available. Lyft officials also hinted that the company will announce another partnership in the near future.

Building autonomous driving systems is a complicated and expensive endeavor, and brings a new layer of complexity to Lyft.

In an interview with CNBC, Vincent said: "When a passenger requests a ride that a self-driving vehicle can complete, we may send one to complete the trip".