Lyft announces plan to develop self-driving cars

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Lyft may be smaller and operate in fewer locations that Uber, but that does not mean the second largest ride-sharing app in the United States can't dabble in some serious R&D.

The San Francisco company on Friday said it is forming its own autonomous-car development division, hiring hundreds of engineers for it and opening a new office in the heart of Silicon Valley.

The US-exclusive service Lyft announced plans today to launch its own autonomous auto division to help work on its open self-driving system.

But Lyft's chief strategy officer Raj Kapoor said Thursday, per the Chron, "Drivers play an important role and will continue to play an important role".

Although Lyft has said it will remain in those partnerships, its new model may be similar to that of competitor Uber, which has to date dedicated many millions of dollars into self-driving technology with the help of partners that include Volvo. The toolkit will offer mapping software, physical interfaces for drivers and passengers, path planning, and other necessary components of autonomous driving.

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Automakers without self-driving cars will find an eager partner in Lyft. It visualizes a hybrid network of human-driven and self-driving cars, with the system selecting whichever is best for a passenger's requested route. Lyft also believes that it has a major advantage over automakers when it comes to data collection.

To that end, the San Francisco-based company is forming a business division, to be staffed with hundreds of Silicon Valley engineers, that will focus exclusively on the development of autonomous vehicle software and hardware. Members of a key House subcommittee unanimously approved a bill that could establish the first federal laws governing self-driving cars that took place on Wednesday. "You're going to see these vehicles on the street", said Taggart Matthiesen, Lyft's senior director of product.

"Lyft is not getting into the business of manufacturing a vehicle", said Kapoor.

Lyft is also announcing the launch of a self-driving division called Level 5. It plans to outfit these vehicles with cameras and sensors to collect data that will ultimately train its self-driving cars.

The company's move to jump into the autonomous vehicle sphere is relatively late compared to the likes of Waymo, Uber, Tesla and others who have spent more time developing the technology, however Lyft says that it is not concerned by this.

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