Self-driving cars will soon be one of the ride options available from Lyft in the San Francisco Bay Area, as the company ramps up its efforts to become a titan in autonomous vehicle technology. The ride-hailing company said Thursday it’s partnered with autonomous vehicle software company Drive.ai to bring self-driving cars to the city's streets.
"Pilot programs like this are vital to build public awareness and familiarity with autonomous vehicle technology," Sameep Tandon, CEO of Drive.ai, said in a statement. "Together, we can take the next step in autonomous vehicles, from testing to deployment in real, urban environments.”
Even though Lyft President, John Zimmer, announced last year that self-driving cars are the future of transportation, the firm hadn't yet started working on its own software. Only a couple of months ago, Lyft had only announced partnerships with self-driving companies, like Nutonomy, General Motors and Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Google's parent company Alphabet.
But in July, the ride-hailing firm said it was starting to work on its own autonomous vehicle software and hardware. As part of this endeavor, Lyft also said it was working on opening a new Silicon Valley engineering facility dedicated to autonomous vehicle development.
There will be initially a small number of cars available, said Drive.ai Co-founder and President Carol Reiley, each with a trained driver in the front seat in case something goes wrong.
“We want to make sure the experience feels as much like an autonomous vehicle experience as possible,” Reiley said.
Passengers must choose to opt into the program and the rides are free. Reiley declined to disclose the car model being used or precisely when the self-driving Lyft rides would start. Lyft declined to comment further.