Lyft completes over 75,000 self-driving rides, the future of driverless taxi is here

Autonomous driving future has the possibility to completely revamp the way we feel about transport. It can bring down traffic, make our roads safer and also give drivers more free time.

There are a number of companies that are developing and testing self-driving cars, each with different approach to tackling obstacles. Lyft is one of those companies. They are developing their own autonomous tech and is allowing other companies to incorporate to Lyft’s ride hailing platform. At this time they are indulged in two self-driving projects. One is the open platform which the passengers can connect with using partner autonomous vehicles. This service is active in Chandler, Arizona and Las Vegas.

By allowing third parties to access its platform, it allows driverless car companies to offer rides via Lyft app. This openness of autonomous tech can greatly benefit self-driving industry as a whole. Waymo, formerly the Google self-driving program in Arizona is using Lyft app to assist its self-driving rides. There is a partnership with Aptiv as well, another autonomous company which is operating in Las Vegas. Cumulatively, Lyft has the largest self-driving commercial program for the public in U.S. that has accomplished over 75,000 rides. They believes that this kind of approach will help push autonomous ride-sharing initiative to the forefront.

Lyft has a lab in Palo Alto where they do all of testing and development for its self-driving vehicles. Their goal is to bring autonomous technology to its ride-sharing platform and accessible to all. Its been over two years they have been developing self driving tech. Currently, over 400 engineers are working under Lyft’s autonomous driving program and are spread across the world including Munich, Bellevue, London, San Francisco and Palo Alto.

Ford Fusions fitted with Lyft’s autonomous technology

Lyft has been testing their self-driving tech on Ford Fusions and soon there is a plan to expand testing on Chrysler Pacifica. They are using the Ford Fusion’s vehicle platform and then add their hardware and software to make the vehicle autonomous. It works similar to other self-driving cars, there are sensors that takes information about the world around the car, there cameras and also radar technology is being used. The on-board computer that is located in the trunk can see 360 degrees around the vehicle.

Lyft riding hailing app for self-driving cars

About two years ago, Lyft engineers were just toying with autonomous technology, but today it has become a reality and their autonomous cars are on the road. You can see their driverless vehicles outside every day in Palo Alto. There is also a pilot program for the employees who can request the Lyft ride from the app. After the request have been make, the nearby autonomous car will come and pick you up just like do it on regular app. The goal of all this is to make this process as similar to original ride hailing program, so customers are familiar to it when the switch is made to the autonomous.

Ford testing autonomous technology

For the average consumers autonomous technology is mainly going to be available through ride-hailing services you know which may include Uber and Lyft and and various other services you know. GM Cruise is going to operate their their own service, Ford is going to operating a services of their own, others you know are gonna follow a similar path. Companies like Uber and Lyft have an advantage because they have a fleet of-course already on the roads, having presence in in the streets and being able to collect a lot of data is always good because the thing that makes this machine learning algorithms improve and get better is as we all know is massive amounts of data, all that data. This is why Lyft says opening its platform to other companies makes sense. It will improve the overall customer experience when self-driving hits the ride-share platforms.

According to Lyft, first you will see focused deployment in isolated areas and over time you will start to see that grow in terms of the vehicle capabilities and their ability to kind of scale that technology. Then they will start to move it to additional cities.

Ride the safety of self-driving tech is a major concern for Lyft, so it’s working with others to develop best practices. Over 40,000 people die on American roads each year and most of those due to preventable accidents. Self-driving is fundamentally going to come to market as a collaborative effort between companies like Lyft and regulators to make sure that we are doing this safely and in a way that is beneficial for society.

Ford Fusion inside lab

In October, Lyft joined the automated vehicle safety consortium as a core member. It is a group of companies like GM, Daimler, Toyota, even Uber and SAE coming together working on best practices, not only for the development of self-driving vehicles, but also the deployment as well. The goal here is to share our best practices as it relates to this technology gaining public.

Trust is another hurdle Lyft hopes that introducing customers to self-driving options on a familiar platform will make those first experiences with the technology more positive. What they’re doing is bringing that understanding of how people are thinking about new technologies into this self-driving experience. 96% of people tell Lyft they want to ride again which according to Lyft is one of the most powerful insights that they’ve generated in the first few years of running this program.

Lyft Level-5 Lab, Palo Alto

For now the tech Lyft is developing inside its level-5 lab is only being tested in limited programs but they say self-driving ride shares will be a critical part of the future. Lets hope this becomes a reality.

Author: Nabeel K

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