Lyft, Waymo Contract Marks Next Step for Self-Driving Cars

switching on autopilot system in self-driving car

In a collaboration agreement, ridesharing company Lyft and autonomous car development firm Waymo will seek to bring self-driving cars to the mainstream, the New York Times reported Sunday.

After talks regarding potential collaboration last summer between Waymo’s CEO and Lyft’s founders, the two companies have agreed to work on pilot projects and product development efforts together.

“Waymo holds today’s best self-driving technology, and collaborating with them will accelerate our shared vision of improving lives with the world’s best transportation,” a Lyft spokeswoman told the Times in a statement.

Founded in late 2016, Waymo operates under Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc. Soon after its founding, Waymo took over Google’s autonomous vehicle project, started in 2009.

“Lyft’s vision and commitment to improving the way cities move will help Waymo’s self-driving technology reach more people, in more places,” a Waymo spokesperson told the Times.

The agreement could mean that self-driving technology is finally out of its research phase, ready for commercial applications, but the two firms declined to comment further on what types of products the deal might entail.

Self-driving cars aren’t only a thing of the future, however. In late April, Waymo rolled out its “early rider program,” which allows residents in Phoenix, Ariz. to try out its self-driving technology.

“We want as many people as possible to experience our technology, and we want to bring self-driving cars to more communities sooner,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said about the program.

Lyft was founded in 2012 in San Francisco, and operates its ridesharing service in approximately 300 American cities. Next to Uber, it is the second largest ridesharing platform in the United States.

“Ridesharing” is a model used by firms such as Lyft and Uber, and offers a modern alternative to taxi cabs. Ridesharing companies make use of smart phones, creating applications that use GPS to pair riders with drivers, and usually allow users to leave feedback through an in-app social network.

While the model has been extremely popular since its inception, it has led to legal issues with traditional taxi companies, many of which complain that ridesharing firms unfairly skirt regulations.

That isn’t the only legal trouble in the world of ridesharing and autonomous cars. After a battle in court between Waymo and Uber over the allegation that a former Waymo employee stole some of its self-driving technology and brought it to a company that has since been acquired by Uber, a judge has mandated that Anthony Levandowsky, the engineer leading Uber’s self-driving technology program, must be excluded from working on some aspects of the project for the duration of the litigation.

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Contributed by Will Porter of The Daily Sheeple.

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