- Lyft has launched a pilot program with autonomous driving company nuTonomy to offer self-driving rides to customers in Boston's Seaport District, according to a nuTonomy blog post.
- When Lyft customers use the app to request a pickup, they will be selected at random to ride in the self-driving cars. A nuTonomy engineer will accompany each ride to take control of the car in the case of an emergency.
- NuTonomy touted this program as the "first-ever public pilot between a ride-sharing company and an autonomous vehicle company in the United States."
Lyft's partnership with nuTonomy and plans for this pilot were originally announced in June, however nuTonomy's work in Boston dates back to November 2016 when the company announced an MOU with the City of Boston and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to test self-driving cars. NuTonomy considers Boston a leader in "rethinking the future of transportation," which has been exemplified in the city's extensive Go Boston 2030 transportation plan.
Lyft is not the first ride-sharing service to test self-driving cars, however. Uber launched a self-driving pilot in Pittsburgh in 2016 and also recently announced plans to purchase more than 20,000 autonomous cars from Volvo to better position itself in what many are calling "the race to driverless." Other companies such as GM are also participating in the competition with their own autonomous ride-hailing platforms.
In the long-term, the goal for Lyft and others in the autonomous ride-hailing industry is to eliminate car ownership and position ride-hailing as an everyday option for city transit. In a press release, it was reported that Lyft and nuTonomy will expand self-driving services "in ways that will yield additional learning and data about the ideal function, performance and features of an autonomous mobility on demand service that could be deployed in cities to tackle the difficult challenge of urban driving." The question now is how Lyft and other ride-hailing services will restructure revenue streams when allotting for the self-driving vehicles, and how those companies will address job loss in the face of autonomy.