- Lyft has hired John Maddox, the former CEO of autonomous vehicle (AV) research institution the American Center for Mobility (ACM), as the company’s first senior director of autonomous safety and compliance. In that role, Maddox will head up the new Office of Autonomous Safety and Compliance, which Lyft described as an "independent safety assurance ‘gateway’ for our AV program."
- Maddox left ACM in August after leading the organization since 2016. Maddox had previously been an associate administrator of vehicle safety research at the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT).
- “I’ve dedicated my career to advancing safe mobility technologies. Joining Lyft is a continuation of that effort, and I’m excited to be part of such a talented and energized team that’s leading the way in redefining the automotive industry and future of transportation,” Maddox said in a statement.
The hiring puts even more weight behind Lyft’s growing autonomous division, which launched in 2017. In October, the ride hailing company announced that Level 5, as the division is called, had some 300 engineers and researchers and was already running test vehicles in California. The company also acquired augmented reality (AR) company Blue Vision Labs to help with its AV software, and has partnered with Drive.ai in the Bay Area and nuTonomy in Boston to deploy self-driving cars.
Maddox served at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from 2008-2012, according to his LinkedIn, including formulating the government’s first AV safety program. That sort of experience will be a major boon to Lyft as it navigates new compliance issues with USDOT and NHTSA, not to mention a patchwork of states crafting their own rules. The federal government in October revised its AV guidance to not require a human behind the wheel, among other changes, while Congress tried and failed to craft AV legislation and may revisit the issue when it returns.
The move also signals that Lyft is serious about engineering its own AV division beyond leveraging its existing partnerships. Lyft has said it will double staff in Level 5 in the next year, and will integrate AVs into its broader mobility platform. With competitors like Uber and Waymo sprinting ahead to get passengers in autonomous cars, Lyft is positioning itself to continue as a major player.