The prospect of self-driving cars is particularly concerning to people who make their living by driving, whether it's a taxi or working for Uber or Lyft. Companies such as Lyft have made no secret about being interesting in adding autonomous vehicles to their fleets. But where does this leave their human drivers? Lyft's product director Taggart Matthiesen told Recode that while the company is focusing on self-driving tech, they will always employ people as drivers. Matthiesen explains that the company already has an advisory board that is working on how human drivers will fit into a vision of a driverless fleet.
"If you assume the cost of these autonomous vehicles, the very early ones, will be six figures, there aren't very many retail customers that are willing to go out and spend that kind of money. But even at that sort of cost, with a ride-sharing platform, you can build a business," GM's vice-president for strategy, Mike Ableson, had told Reuters about the venture in a November interview. The Lyft-GM self-driving cars' road test is set to be the largest of its kind by any automaker before 2020, which is the year when others such as Uber, which is preparing its own fleet in partnership with Daimler and Ford, hit the roads. Ford plans to build its self-driven vehicles at its Detroit plant in late 2020, which could potentially be deployed with ride-sharing services such as Uber by 2021. Others are also testing their self-driving cars, but they are doing so in small numbers.
Google will team up with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to develop their self-driving cars, the companies announced Tuesday. Google began working on autonomous driving technology in 2009, though the project wasn't publicly announced until a year later. Chrysler quickly attacked the concept in an ad for the new Dodge Charger: "Hands-free driving, cars that park themselves, an unmanned car driven by a search-engine company," intones the voice-over. It ends with robots harvesting our bodies for energy." Tuesday's announcement included news that the union will more than double Google's self-driving fleet, adding around 100 models of the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.
Lyft has completed more than 5,000 self-driving rides through its ride-hailing app, the company said, as it aims to become a serious competitor in autonomous driving while its biggest rival, Uber, retrenches. Lyft launched its self-driving service in January in Las Vegas, where passengers can take a ride in an autonomous BMW to and from some 20 different pick-up and destination spots around the city's casino-laden Strip. The autonomous driving system is not built by Lyft, however, but by high-tech auto-parts supplier Aptiv Plc, which Lyft partnered with earlier this year. When you first get in, it's not all that different from getting into a typical Lyft, as someone is sitting in the driver's seat. But, the backup driver keeps their hands off the wheel except in situations where it's required they take over.