By Polina Marinova
July 21, 2017

Now we know why Lyft went on a partnership binge earlier this year.

Today, the ride-hailing company officially announced that it will develop a suite of hardware and software that will allow any manufacturer to turn its vehicles into autonomous vehicles.

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 toolkit will offer mapping software, physical interfaces for drivers and passengers, path planning, and other necessary components of autonomous driving. As Fortune’s Michal Lev-Ram puts it, “Think of it as a self-driving car in a box that contains everything but the actual car.”

Related: How Lyft Could Defeat Uber

Although the company declined to disclose when its self-driving technology will be available for integration, it noted that it’s still on schedule to begin rolling out with Cambridge, Mass.-based self-driving car startup nuTonomy. The pilot, in which Lyft users will be able to hail a self-driving car from the app, is expected to take place in Boston by the end of the year.

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Until now, Lyft was focused on building a dense, diverse network of partnerships while rival Uber was employing teams of engineers to work on developing its own self-driving technology. But Lyft is also beginning to pursue a more proprietary approach.

“We don’t want to only lean on our partners,” says Luc Vincent, the vice president of engineering at Lyft. “We want to lead the way autonomous hardware and software is built in this industry.”

Lyft is also announcing the launch of a self-driving division called Level 5. Based in Palo Alto, the Level 5 facility will house hundreds of engineers that will work on developing the open self-driving system.

Lyft's new Palo Alto office dedicated to developing self-driving technology. Courtesy:

Lyft’s efforts in the self-driving space will help it take on the market’s 800-pound gorilla. As Lev-Ram writes, leapfrogging Uber won’t be easy but “driverless tech could elevate Lyft to parity or better.”


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