The Fuse

Lyft’s New Lab, Corporate Partnerships Open up New Avenues in Autonomy

by Matt Piotrowski | August 04, 2017

Ride-hailing service Lyft is serious about self-driving cars. Just recently, it announced an autonomous vehicle lab that will be based in Palo Alto, California and plans to employ several hundred people by late next year while cooperating closely with its partners in this space. “We aren’t thinking of our self-driving division as a side project. It’s core to our business,” said Luc Vincent, vice president of autonomous technology at Lyft. “That’s why 10 percent of our engineers are already focused on developing self-driving technology—and we’ll continue to grow that team in the months ahead.”

Lyft’s aggressive AV push is another example of how players in the auto and tech space see self-driving cars as a vital part of their future business plans.

This announcement comes on top of its partnerships with Waymo, Jaguar, GM, and start-up nuTonomy. The company’s aggressive AV push is another example of how players in the auto and tech space see self-driving cars as a vital part of their future business plans. But it is also a reflection of how important AVs will be to the urban landscape—and how they will likely open up new areas of commerce and alter our relationships with retail outlets.

Commerce

It’s also too soon to fully realize how autonomous cars will open new avenues of commerce and change consumers’ relationships with retail, but Lyft’s recent actions give a glimpse into what the future might hold. The company is not only developing partnerships with those in the transportation space; it also has formed partnerships with Taco Bell, Disney, and Amtrak, to provide more convenience for the consumer. The Taco Bell deal is to provide mid-ride meals late at night, Disney will shuttle customers in a “Minnie Van” around the resort, and Amtrak riders can use the train service’s app to book a ride with Lyft to take them to and from the station.

Lyft is not only developing partnerships with those in the transportation space; it also has formed partnerships with Taco Bell, Disney, and Amtrak, to provide more convenience for the consumer.

By partnering with companies where they can find synergies, the ride-hailing company is trying to satisfy customers beyond the ease and accessibility of providing an on-demand ride and develop long-term relationships with its consumer base. Lyft is an attractive partner for these companies since it understands routing and mapping, and possesses key data on travel patterns and consumer habits.

When autonomy and ride-sharing eventually converge, these types of services will be even more common. Vehicles and rides will become more personalized, tailored to each individuals’ interest. As Deloitte noted in a report, “Mobility management companies and fleet operators [will] offer a range of passenger experiences to meet widely varied needs at differentiated price points.”

Urbanization

After decades of suburbanization, which boomed after World War II, the U.S. is now seeing a trend toward urbanization with more people migrating to cities. This has large implications for car ownership, ride-sharing, and autonomous vehicles. Companies like Lyft are trying to capitalize on this trend, but will also help reinforce it, making urban travel more convenient and making it more enticing to live and work in cities. But in order for cities to remain attractive as places to live, congestion, bottlenecks, and infrastructure constraints such as limited parking spaces need to be resolved. This is where autonomous cars will be part of the solution.

Companies like Lyft are trying to capitalize on the trend of urbanization, but will also help reinforce it, making urban travel more convenient and making it more enticing to live and work in cities.

The convenience for city dwellers, along with reduced costs for consumers, will be taken a step further with autonomous taxis. In this scenario, the incentive to own a car in cities will decline. It’s still too early to tell exactly where autonomous vehicles will first take off, but with the aggressive strategies of a companies like Lyft, it’s more likely to occur in urban areas and dense suburbs.

 

 

 

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