Lyft-Waymo Autonomous Vehicle Partnership Begins as Driverless Car Race Heats Up
Some Phoenix area Lyft LYFT users are now able to take an autonomous ride, powered by Waymo. The Alphabet GOOGL subsidiary has provided 10 self-driving minivans to Lyft for use in specific areas of Phoenix, an area Waymo has done significant testing in over the past couple of years. Phoenix is also the area where Waymo currently operates its Waymo One project, the self-driving taxi service that is currently only available to a limited number of customers, primarily based on location.
Lyft users in need of a ride within a geofenced location will have the option to select a Waymo minivan as an option. These Waymo vans are still manned by a safety driver, prepared to step if the self-driving technology were to malfunction. Lyft users who don’t want to try the autonomous service have the option to take a traditional Lyft ride.
Both companies stand to benefit from the partnership. Lyft, as of May 2019, owns around 29% of the rideshare market. Lyft could boost its market share as autonomous rides would likely lower the cost of rides in the long-run, making Lyft more appealing than competitors such as Uber UBER. Additionally, expanding the partnership outside of Phoenix could help boost revenue.
Waymo also signed a deal last week with Renault RNLSY and its subsidiary Nissan. The deal aims to bring automated vehicles to France and Japan, with possible expansion in the future. The announcement contained few specifics, but is a big step for all parties involved. Waymo can use the deal to expand its brand globally, while Nissan and Renault now have to use fewer resources to develop automated vehicle technology.
Self-driving vehicles and automated taxi services have become a major focus of many different automotive and tech companies. On Tuesday, Apple AAPL confirmed it had acquired self-driving start up Drive.ai. In what is known as an “acqui-hire” in the industry, Apple will add some of Drive.ai’s engineers to its already large group of over 5,000 employees dedicated to self-driving vehicles.
Uber, Lyft’s main competition, revealed its third-generation of its self-driving car earlier this month. Partnered with Volvo VLVLY, the companies announced that the car will begin public testing in 2020. The car has significant improvements in its safety features, which includes backup steering, braking, and battery power systems.
Plus, self-driving startup Aurora, backed by Amazon AMZN and Sequoia Capital, earlier this month partnered with Fiat-Chrysler FCAU. Much of this partnership will be focused on integrating Aurora’s technology into Fiat-Chrysler’s Ram trucks, with other vehicles likely to be added in the down the road.
In a market that continues to grow and advance, many companies are eager to secure a spot and partner with other industry leaders. Lyft’s partnership with Waymo is yet another example and appears to be mutually beneficial, although the success, or failure of the program will likely impact any future relations.
Nonetheless, the Lyft-Waymo partnership is a big step since autonomous driving is what Lyft, Uber, and other ride-sharing companies hope will drive long-term profitability. Meanwhile, Tesla TSLA CEO Elon Musk has promised a fleet of robo-taxis by the end of 2020. With all this in mind, the autonomous vehicle future doesn’t look too far off at this point, and Lyft seems poised to play a significant role.
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