Lyft joins quest for self-driving cars

Uber isn't the only ride-share company seeking to develop self-driving cars: Lyft announced on Thursday that it has formed a "self-driving car division" and will soon open a facility for it in Palo Alto, Calif.
By Mark Schwartz | Jul 26, 2017
Uber isn't the only ride-share company seeking to develop self-driving cars: Lyft announced on Thursday that it has formed a "self-driving car division" and will soon open a facility for it in Palo Alto, Calif.
"We are putting down the accelerator significantly on investment on this," Raj Kapoor, chief strategy officer for Lyft, told reporters at its San Francisco headquarters.
The move is a sharp policy change for Lyft, which had said previously that it would stay out of self-driving car development and limit its involvement in the field to letting other companies test their self-driving cars in Lyft's ride-hailing network. The company has been striving to expand its niche in the ride-sharing business against the much larger Uber, however, and debuting a self-driving car program is one more way to match Uber's products and services.
Lyft doesn't plan to build the actual cars. The facility will focus on the data programming part of the equation and contract out the hardware-building to other partner companies. Lyft raised $600 million in April for the new division and is now beginning preparations for an initial public offering.
The company has existing partnerships with General Motors and Jaguar Land Rover, as well as the technology company Nutonomy and Alphabet's self-driving division, Waymo. Nutonomy plans to help it launch a pilot vehicle in Boston by the end of the year.
Neither company has said, however, if the other three Lyft partners above will collaborate with it on self-driving car development, however. And its new research-and-development in the field could actually place it in direct competition with some of them.
Meanwhile, Uber is facing some challenges from its competitors, as well. Waymo recently sued it over alleged theft of trade secrets related to its self-driving vehicle system design.

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