Lyft’s Newest Partnership Could Bring Self-Driving Cars on the Road Soon
If you’re hailing a Lyft in the Boston area, don’t be surprised if there’s no one behind the wheel.
Today, Lyft is announcing a partnership with Cambridge, Mass.-based self-driving car startup nuTonomy to bring autonomous vehicles into its network. The two companies plan to roll out a limited pilot program in which Lyft users will be able to hail a self-driving car from the app “in the coming months.”
NuTonomy has been testing Renault Zoe electric cars equipped with its self-driving software in Singapore and Boston. It’s been reported that the company plans to roll out a wider commercial fleet of self-driving cars in Singapore in 2018—well ahead of the timelines set by other companies working on similar technology, including Uber, General Motors, and Google’s parent company, Alphabet.
And here’s where it gets interesting. Less than a month ago, Lyft announced a similar partnership with Alphabet’s self-driving unit Waymo. The ride-hailing company also has a partnership with GM, the auto giant which bought self-driving startup Cruise Automation for more than $1 billion.
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Today, it’s unclear where that partnership stands. Lyft declined to comment on the status of its existing collaborations with Waymo and GM, only saying, “These partnerships are non-exclusive. Our work with each partner is unique and differentiated per partner.”
The only thing clear is that Lyft’s push into self-driving technology to take on rival Uber is only beginning. Right now, nuTonomy is integrating Lyft’s software in its cars and it will soon begin testing performance with employees. Lyft CEO Logan Green said there will be a version of the Lyft app running in a console in the car.
And how long before ordinary customers can order a self-driving Lyft to take them to their next destination?
“As soon as we launch [in Boston],” Green said in a call with reporters, reiterating that the launch will take place in the next few months. “There’s no Phase I or Phase II. It will be available to members of the public through the Lyft app.”