Boing Boing

Lyft to challenge Uber with self-driving cars, launching first in Boston

We already know Uber's been investing millions of dollars in the future of self-driving. Now Lyft is making similar moves, including a partnership with Boston-based nuTonomy, a self-driving car startup founded by an MIT guy.

The New York Times' Mike Isaac reports,

Lyft on Tuesday announced an agreement with nuTonomy, a self-driving car start-up, that will eventually bring thousands of nuTonomy’s autonomous vehicles to Lyft’s ride-hailing network. The partnership will initially focus on research and development related to the customer experience of summoning an autonomous vehicle, Lyft said.

“Our ultimate responsibility is to bring the best autonomous vehicles to Lyft’s millions of passengers,” Logan Green, Lyft’s chief executive, said in an interview. “And since it’s very early in the development life cycle of autonomous vehicles, we’ll explore many partnerships to learn with and from partners to help figure out what passengers want.” The agreement is part of Lyft’s broader move into autonomous car-sharing. Mr. Green has long postulated that the future of transportation will be less focused on private car ownership.

Soon, reports the Boston Globe, you'll be able to hail an autonomous Lyft in Boston. The first big ride-sharing partnership for Lyft is with a Boston-based startup.

NuTonomy was founded by Karl Iagnemma, a robot scientist at MIT. Last year, in Singapore, the company launched the world’s first taxi service using self-driving vehicles. This year, nuTonomy has begun testing cars in Boston’s Seaport and Fort Point neighborhoods, using electric cars from French automaker Renault.

Lyft engineers will now participate in that research, figuring out how to integrate the Lyft smartphone app with the autonomous car’s software. “We don’t really know how riders are going to interact with autonomous vehicles,” said Iagnemma, “because we really haven’t had that much experience.” Together, Lyft and nuTonomy will learn how to manage the entire process, so that consumers will learn to feel confident that self-driving vehicles are safe.

The process of integrating the companies’ software has already begun. When it’s completed, Lyft will begin offering rides to paying customers in the self-driving cars. No date has been selected for the launch of the service, which must first be approved by the city of Boston.