But now Lyft is building an open platform for self-driving vehicles and plans to maintain existing partnerships.
During the event, Luc Vincent, Lyft's vice president of engineering, detailed the company's plans for its open self-driving auto system.
The other thing to consider, with all this talk of unleashing the unmanned robots to drive us, is the toll it will take on Uber and Lyft's human drivers.
"We want it to be open to share with the industry", Raj Kapoor, .
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The biggest reveal, at least for those who are prone to conspiracy theories and speculation, came in the panel's final minutes. The most intriguing panel may be the one depicting a stopped vehicle absent of any human figures.
The San Francisco company on Friday said it is forming its own autonomous-car development division, hiring hundreds of engineers for it and opening a.
This is the biggest move Lyft itself has made into the space, and the company will be developing its own technology.
Lyft's new Palo Alto facility will open in August, and the company expects to have several hundred engineers for self-driving cars there by year's end.
Lyft is betting the future of the road centers on sharing autonomous vehicles. Those efforts will be fueled by data collected from its vast network of ride-hailed vehicles. Lyft can use data from its cars to make high-resolution 3-D maps, a critical technology for self-driving cars to navigate, for instance.
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The self-driving industry points to the technology as a way to curtail how many people (125 million) are killed on roads worldwide each year. Comma.ai canceled sales of its own self-driving kit, which allowed certain cars to gain autopilot-like highway driving assistance abilities, after a warning letter from the National Highway and Travel Safety Administration (NHTSA).
"Some may ask: Aren't you late to the game?" Early partners include Waymo, nuTonomy, Jaguar, Land Rover and General Motors. But he said the technology has evolved so quickly, with such innovations as deep learning - a form of artificial intelligence that can respond to evolving situations - that it's easier to get started now.
Uber's approach is closer to that of Apple: Both companies want to control most of the product, whether the software or the hardware. NuTonomy has been testing its cars with passengers in Singapore since last fall.
Lyft said it doesn't see self-driving cars replacing its drivers - it hopes to create a "hybrid" network where passengers can choose either.
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"It's not something I've heard us talk about but it's something to think about", Vincent said. "Some people prefer to have a human driver; in the short run there will be instances that self-driving cars can't handle". When customers request rides, Lyft would still dispatch human drivers in scenarios that driverless cars find challenging, such as pickups in front of sports stadium, where there are lots of pedestrians and cars coming together at once. Officials said that in the future, drivers may turn into assistants for elderly passengers, or become in-car baristas and concierges. But many companies in the industry are coming to the conclusion that working with partners is a lot more cost effective than what would be involved in going solo, Kapoor said.
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