Lyft announced today it was opening its own self-driving car division in Palo Alto called Level 5, and its first cars will hit the streets of Boston by the end of this year.
According to David Vincent, Lyft’s head of autonomy, self-driving cars won’t replace its drivers:
When a passenger requests a ride that a self-driving car can complete, we may send one to complete the trip. If that person needs to go somewhere self-driving cars are unable to navigate, or their needs call for a different level of service, they will have a driver.
After the Boston test, the company hopes to expand to other cities.
Lyft’s primary competition, Uber, has had a bumpy year where its autonomous vehicles are concerned — it’s currently in a legal battle with Waymo over self-driving car tech allegedly stolen by a former Waymo employee. Lyft partnered with Waymo earlier this year.
Now Lyft is opening its own division, independent of its previous partners. That said, it wants to work with the rest of the auto industry rather than try and go it completely alone. According to Raj Kapoor, the company’s chief strategy officer, “We want to bring the whole industry together with this, and we think there’s a unique opportunity in time right now for Lyft to become a leader while doing it.”
John Zimmer, the co-founder of Lyft has said self-driving cars will be the standard within five years. He told Inc an autonomous Lyft fleet would help customers more than vehicles like Tesla’s, “Our fleet will provide significantly more consistency and availability than a patchwork of privately owned cars.”