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Lyft launches its own self-driving vehicle business

22 July 2017, 12:55 | Melanie Burgess

Why Everything Lyft Has Been Doing This Year Is Starting to Make Sense

Lyft is following Uber into self-driving cars

Lyft is taking a markedly different approach from Uber. When the cost of transportation as a service becomes more affordable than auto ownership, demand will increase - and so will ride requests for drivers and autonomous vehicles.

"We want to take a proactive role into pushing the industry into a more open environment", Raj Kapoor, Lyft's chief strategy officer said at a media event Thursday.

Lyft is starting to get serious about self-driving cars. Some industry officials fear that a lack of uniform rules and expectations could hinder the development of self-driving cars by effectively preventing vehicles from crossing state lines. The toolkit will offer mapping software, physical interfaces for drivers and passengers, path planning, and other necessary components of autonomous driving.

Sensors can be mounted on these cars to collect location information that helps Lyft build high-definition maps for autonomous driving, and the sheer size of the company's network could help it develop the know-how to navigate roads around the world at a rapid pace.

The plan is a reversal for the company, which previously arranged research partnerships with companies already involved in the development of self-driving cars - including Jaguar Land Rover, General Motors, Neutonomy and Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo.

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Lyft's engineering center in Palo Alto, California, will have 200 employees by the end of the year.

Lyft's focus on finding a balance was also apparent with how it was going to work with its partners. Also, they note that there could be a point down the road when self-driving "kits" can be created and given to drivers to convert their existing cars to being autonomous. By opting to build such sensors - which are usually the single most expensive piece of hardware autonomous cars rely upon - the goal is to cut the price from existing models, and help make the vehicles themselves more affordable.

In an interview with CNBC, Vincent said: "When a passenger requests a ride that a self-driving vehicle can complete, we may send one to complete the trip".

The company's move to jump into the autonomous vehicle sphere is relatively late compared to the likes of Waymo, Uber, Tesla and others who have spent more time developing the technology, however Lyft says that it is not concerned by this.

"We're very excited to see the autonomous-vehicle technology's ability to reduce vehicle-miles traveled and the comfort people will have in getting rid of their cars", he said.

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