It’s no secret that Lyft has its sights set on a country without individual car ownership — with the company’s co-founder calling it a “$9,000 ball and chain” that people have to drag along in their daily lives — but now the ride-hailing service is elaborating further on how exactly it can accomplish that goal.
Luc Vincent, Lyft’s VP of engineering, writes in a Medium post that in order for Lyft to usher in a “transportation revolution” — one that he says will improve our communities and quality of life — the company has to build an “ecosystem of trust” that offers rides both with drivers as well as rides from self-driving vehicles.
Humans will surely stick around, but it’s worth noting that Lyft co-founder and president John Zimmer has said in the past that the company expects that the majority of its rides will be in self-driving cars within five years.
The next step
To that end, Lyft is opening its own self-driving division called the Level 5 Engineering Center in a new facility in Palo Alto.
The new group will work on developing a new, open self-driving system in order to build on its already-existin open self-driving platform.
“Lyft’s self-driving vehicles will operate on that network, alongside vehicles introduced by Lyft partners,” Vincent writes. “In the years ahead, we will continue to bring the world’s leading automotive and technology companies onto this single platform to serve a nationwide passenger network.”
The company already has 10 percent of its engineers working on developing self-driving technology, and will be adding more to the new team.
Wh Lyft thinks it can make all its dreams come true
So what sets Lyft apart from all the other self-driving efforts out there? Vincent says the company believes Lyft is in the best position to build technology in collaboration with partners “in a way that makes it possible to roll out self-driving cars at scale in the fastest, safest, most efficient way.”
Here are some of his reasons:
• Lyft has “significant scale,” allowing to rapidly train its self-driving system. With more than a million rides completed on the network every day, adding up to tens of millions of miles daily, Lyft can use the data it collects to understand the world better, thus helping it deliver “a better experience for our passengers and drivers alike.”
• Everything is on an open platform, which won’t just work in Lyft’s favor, but will accelerate its partners’ efforts as well.
“They’ll be able to tap into our wealth of data and experience to create the best self-driving experience, Vincent writes. “All of this can happen much more quickly because we’re working together to create the transportation ecosystem that will define our future.”
Why get rid of individual car ownership in the first place?
You might be thinking, “But I like having my own car. What’s your beef, Lyft?”
Safety: Echoing past statements on a future without individual car ownership, Vincent cites a study that says widespread adoption of self-driving cars will lead to a 90 percent reduction in accidents.
Pollution: Fewer cars on the road comes down to less pollution and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, Vincent notes.
Quality of life: Lyft also wants future where we have less traffic clogging our streets, allowing us to “devote less of our space to roads, concrete, and parking lots — and more to parks, playgrounds, homes and local businesses.”
“It’s a future, in short, where we build our communities and our world around people, not cars,” Vincent says.
Okay, but will people really stop buying cars?
Lyft isn’t alone in trying to replace your car with a service: Waymo started offering self-driving car rides to the public in April, with CEO John Krafcik saying the company expects a lot of demand.
“We want as many people as possible to experience our technology, and we want to bring self-driving cars to more communities sooner,” he said at the time.
In June, he told The Wall Street Journal that the company would love to replace the family car with such a service.
“We’re really experimenting here with how far our users can go in terms of using a service like this one to replace their own personal transportation,” he said.
Others also believe that individual ownership will fall by the wayside eventually.
“By 2022, 2023, the majority of transportation in urban cities with temperate weather will be on demand, shared and likely autonomous,” Aarjav Trivedi, chief executive of Ridecell, a San Francisco company that provides the back-end software for car sharing, told the WSJ.
But while various reports in the press claim that car ownership will soon be a thing of the past, partly because millennials just aren’t interested in buying new vehicles anymore, The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System looked into the demographics of new vehicle purchases and found that that might not be the whole story.
The fed’s analysis concluded that despite a downturn in interest during the Great Recession, younger people do not have less of an appetite for car ownership.
“While part of the rise in average age does reflect a decline since 2007 in the rate at which young buyers purchase new vehicles, the aging of the Baby Boomers and a drop in the purchasing rate among 35 to 50 year olds appear to be the most important factors,” the fed noted.
However, that analysis didn’t take into account what effect autonomous fleets of vehicles might have.