Ride-hailing service Lyft is nudging its way into the world of self-driving cars, announcing today that it will soon be offering rides in autonomous vehicles to customers in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The upcoming test, which was not given a precise start date, will be a partnership between Lyft and Drive.ai, a startup that builds software and hardware to retrofit traditional cars into self-driving vehicles.
When the Lyft test does launch, the small fleet of Drive.ai cars will not be sent out onto the streets of San Francisco without human supervision. Rather, a trained driver will be behind the wheel of each vehicle to monitor the car and take over control of the vehicle if needed.
Also, Lyft users won’t be taken fully by surprise when they are picked up by a self-driving car. Customers will have to opt in to participating if they want the option of riding in an a robot car. For those that do end up in one of the few autonomous cars, there’s additional good news: Your ride will be free.
If this all sounds familiar, it’s because Uber tried something similar in late 2016 in San Francisco. That test barely lasted a week, as Uber failed to get proper authorization from state regulators to operate their self-driving SUVs on public streets. During that very brief window of time, Uber vehicles were filmed running red lights and improperly entering intersections — incidents that Uber blamed on human error.
To preempt concerns that its program will be similarly short-lived, Lyft makes a point in its announcement of stating that the test will be “done in compliance with applicable regulatory requirements set by” state regulators.
Lyft is also planning to launch a separate autonomous vehicle test in the Boston area in the months to come.