Lyft to develop in-house self-driving technology unit

Lyft to develop in-house self-driving technology unit

Should its efforts to develop the technology prove successful, Lyft might have an edge in the marketplace because it could provide both software and a massive network of riders, while partnering on vehicle production.

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

"You can't just leave [self-driving technology] in the hands of others, especially when you have talent and assets that could actually help", Raj Kapoor, chief strategy officer at Lyft, told reporters in a briefing Thursday.

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

"When a passenger requests a ride that a self-driving vehicle can complete, we may send one to complete the trip". Or companies could be wary of teaming up with Lyft because it is developing its own self-driving system. But Lyft is also beginning to pursue a more proprietary approach.

A rendering of the Palo Alto laboratory that Lyft's new self-driving division will soon call home
Lyft is determined to become a player in self-driving cars -- and is opening its own autonomous vehicle center to show it

On Friday, Lyft announced that customers will be able to ride in self-driving cars by the end of this year.

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.

In a press-only event in its San Francisco headquarters, Lyft executives said it remains committed to its partnerships while working on its own self-driving technology.

Watch out, Uber: Lyft is opening its own self-driving division. "We want to lead the way autonomous hardware and software is built in this industry".

The new self-driving division will consist of hundreds of employees dedicated to creating a complete self-driving software and hardware kit that can be integrated into vehicles provided by partners. 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. "You're going to see these vehicles on the street", said Taggart Matthiesen, Lyft's senior director of product. Uber is facing a protracted trade secrets suit brought by Waymo that alleges that Otto co-founder Anthony Levandowski stole 14,000 proprietary files while he worked at Alphabet's self-driving auto company.

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