Lyft May Soon be Sending Patrons Autonomous Cars

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Lyft is having quite a year. While the name Uber has become synonymous with legal battles and leadership issues, Lyft is gaining regarding market share, geographical reach and funding. They also hope to make a leading contribution to the effort to get autonomous cars on the road.

A recent strategy for fueling growth for the company included a $1.6 billion cash infusion that may set the stage for Lyft becoming the ride-hailing company to watch.

2017 will go down in history as a banner year for the company, with multiple milestones and leaps in development securing the future of Lyft. In January, Lyft was able to offer rides to 54 percent of the country’s geographical area; at the end of the year, that number reached 95 percent.

The co-founders of the company, Logan Green and John Zimmer, have inked deals this year, creating partnerships with five of the best-positioned companies for contributing to the development of autonomous cars. One of those deals is with Alphabet’s Waymo, a company that happens to be involved in legal battles with Uber over claims of stolen trade secrets.

Lyft didn’t stop there. To become a leader in the drive to develop autonomous cars, the company also aligned with Drive.ai and nuTonomy, which are both start-ups that are focused on the development of software for driverless cars. Lyft also signed with Jaguar and Land Rover to lend these two companies’ cars and technology to the Lyft experience. General Motors has acquired a nine percent stake in Lyft.

Lyft’s strategy is to create an open platform with each of these companies, which are each in different stages of development with autonomous cars, to participate in the Lyft network to offer autonomous rides to passengers.

While the partners contribute the driverless technology, Lyft can pull and analyze large sets of data related to the ride route. Before a passenger begins their ride, they already know the end point and the ride route can be calculated. Lyft is also currently working on what they call a “ride experience” to unify passengers’ perceptions of the brand.

In addition, there are no plans to train Lyft drivers to operate a hybrid model as driverless options are tested. That part of the development will be up to Lyft’s partners. The company hopes to launch a pilot car by the end of 2017. While Uber already has tests being conducted in three cities, Lyft partners GM and nuTonomy have also already tested cars.

Expect to hear Lyft as a key part of the conversation as autonomous cars inch closer to the open road. This five-year-old company is having quite the moment, and it’s likely to help usher in an era of autonomous cars and driverless ride-hailing services.

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