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Lyft’s 2023 target for a driverless taxi launch looks overly-optimistic

Uber seems to be out the game, does that open the door for Lyft?

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Just because Uber has taken a step back from its self-driving taxi service, doesn’t mean others are following suit. Ride-hailing competitor Lyft has said that it plans to launch the first vehicles of its robotaxi fleet in 2023.

According to Engadget, Lyft has completed more than 100,000 safety-driver-equipped robotaxi journeys in Las Vegas, where it has been testing its fleet.

The ride-hailing company, which is developing driverless taxis in collaboration with self-driving car developers Motional, got the go ahead to test its fleet without drivers back in November. It plans to begin driverless tests in the coming months, with the hope that it can launch to the public in the next few years.

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Lyft says that it will offer its self-driving taxi service in multiple cities across the US. However, it hasn’t said, or even hinted at, where. Lyft has said that it will take care of the ride-hailing side of things, whilst Motional will take care of managing the fleet of robotaxis.

Chances are that it will be in cities where driving conditions are highly controlled and predictable.

Russia’s Yandex is also developing self-driving cars, and has previously told SHIFT that its driverless taxis aren’t far from being launched in areas where it’s easy to predict how other drivers might react in certain situations. However, autonomous vehicles that work in the most complex scenarios are still five years away.

However, Uber recently threw doubt over whether driverless taxis will ever become A Thing when it sold its self-driving division to Aurora, a company that is primarily focused on building driverless trucks. Bear in mind, Uber has put $1 billion into developing self-driving cars — it is not a simple task.

Uber has retained a stake in Aurora and Uber‘s CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, will sit on its board. So it’s not given up entirely, but it seems to indicate that robotaxis might be a more distant future than we have been told. With that in mind, Lyft‘s goal of 2023 still seems ambitious at best.

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Published December 17, 2020 — 10:29 UTC