Lyft Wants to Be Your Gateway to Autonomous Cars, Mobility Buzz Learns | Auto Finance News | Auto Finance News

Lyft Wants to Be Your Gateway to Autonomous Cars, Mobility Buzz Learns

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While OEMs and tech giants race to build out the autonomous cars of the future, Lyft is busy taking on the consumer end of the equation.

The rideshare company is aiming to become the go-to interface for consumers accessing autonomous vehicle fleets, Annabel Chang, director of public policy at Lyft, told Auto Finance News in an exclusive interview at Autonomous Vehicles 2017 event:

Soon, it is going to be probably very expensive for the individual to own an autonomous vehicle. But what would be much less expensive — and much more convenient — is for you to have the subscription to Lyft and to an autonomous car, and that’s how you’ll first access, and hopefully how you’ll most frequently access autonomous cars. So, our view is that when the general public begins accessing autonomous vehicles, it will be through the Lyft app. We hope certainly in the near future we will be the consumer interface.

Lyft has also been quietly pitching investors on a funding round, that it hopes will net at least $500 million, according to a published report. The $500 million fundraising — which could even be tied to the company’s shift to this consumer-interface model — would value the ride-hailing service between $6 billion and $7 billion, according to published reports.

Lyft is rushing towards Chief Executive John Zimmer’s goal of having a fully autonomous fleet of cars provide the “majority of Lyft rides across the country” by 2021. The General Motors Co. partnership — announced in January of last year — is key to this plan, according to Chang. Last week, GM reportedly announced its intention to test “thousands” of EV bolts in 2018.

“Last year, there were a lot of autonomous vehicle announcements, and we were one of the biggest ones with GM,” Chang said. “Everyone is betting on a different model to win, and it’s not clear what the winning model is, but what it does is it encourages innovation. Our technology is world class, and that is a leverage point that I can’t think of other competitors having that secret sauce.”

The “secret sauce” is Lyft’s tracking technology, which already allows both users and drivers to see all the cars on the road in their area in real time, creating an efficient routing system. And as Lyft continues its rapid expansion — the company announced its launch in 50 news cities last week alone — that technology will continue to improve, according to Chang.

“Consumer trust and loyalty that we have developed [makes us] uniquely situated, in a way that other companies are not,” she said.

The Uber rival completed 162.5 million rides in 2016, up from 53.3 million the year prior. In contrast, Uber hit its 1 billion ride milestone (over five years) in December 2015, and has, reportedly, crossed the 2 billion mark of rides globally in 2016.

Lyft is now working to make its app even more appealing to autonomous vehicle providers.

“That’s the tech every autonomous vehicle stakeholder wants,” she said. “How you achieve the benefits of autonomous vehicle technology is by having that clear picture of all the vehicles on the road, how are they interacting with each other, how are they interacting with the environment, and that’s when you get the benefits of safety, and efficiency, and reducing congestion.”

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