The future of the automotive industry is self-driving cars, and Lyft has become the latest company with plans to get in on the action. The ride sharing company wants to have its fleet of autonomous vehicles on U.S. streets in the near future.
Reports from Bloomberg claims Lyft is moving to open a self-driving car development facility in Palo Alto, California area, called “Level 5.” By the end of 2017, the facility is expected to have several hundred employees. Furthermore, the company says that around 10 percent of its engineers are currently working on self-driving vehicles, though it did not state how much that number will rise by year’s end.
Partnerships are not the only way forward
Before the announcement, efforts by Lyft to enter the self-driving vehicle market was attached to partnerships. The company is currently working with Waymo, Jaguar Land Rover, and General Motors. Additionally, the idea right now is to kick start a self-driving car beta program in Boston with the help of a company known as Nutonomy.
Now, the company decided to make it clear that its partnership-centric strategy is not changing, even though as it moves to create its autonomous technology.
“We want a proactive role in pushing the industry,” according to Raj Kapoor, Lyft’s chief strategy officer, said at the company’s San Francisco offices. “We need to be playing this role. You can’t just be looking for partners to do it.”
Lyft believes it can catch up with rivals despite lacking the long-term experience. This is due in part because several companies are offering off the shelf components for autonomous vehicles. It’s possible for Lyft to purchase lidar in bulk for a decent price, but going this route might cause for more expense.
Additionally, the company feels great about being at the forefront of data collection. At the moment, Lyft is considering whether or not it should attach data collecting sensors to vehicles from the Express Drive program.
To make things even more interesting, automakers who are lacking self-driving vehicles can partner with Lyft because the company has no interest in manufacturing its own cars.
“Lyft is not getting into the business of manufacturing a car,” Kapoor said. “The auto industry has done a fantastic job with safety and reliability.”
Competition with Uber
Uber is way ahead of Lyft right now as the company is slowly rolling out its self-driving car program. The company acquired Otto, an autonomous company with the goal of pushing the self-driving truck. The deal cost Uber $680 million, but it could push the company in a tight position as it faces a lawsuit brought on by Waymo.
Apparently, the founder of Otto, Anthony Levandowski who is a former Waymo employee, stole 14,000 files relating to the company’s self-driving car secret.
Lyft doesn’t have this problem, which means, it could surpass its rival in the self-driving market with careful planning and execution.