Driverless taxis just five years off, Uber rival Lyft predicts

Driverless taxis will be fully launched to consumers within five years according to John Zimmer, the co-founder of the smartphone-based ridesharing company Lyft.

In a blog post, he said that the technology would deliver a transportation revolution that would lead to drastically reduced car ownership in favour of 'transportation as a service'. 

“Autonomous vehicle fleets will quickly become widespread and will account for the majority of Lyft rides within 5 years,” Zimmer wrote.

“The transition to an autonomous future will not occur primarily through individually owned cars. It will be both more practical and appealing to access autonomous vehicles when they are part of Lyft’s networked fleet.

“Our fleet will provide significantly more consistency and availability than a patchwork of privately owned cars.”

Driverless taxi services are already being trialled in cities across the world. Uber, Lyft’s main rival, has already started testing driverless taxis in the American city of Pittsburgh in May. Although the cars are fully automated, a driver sits behind the wheel for now to ensure the technology provides a smooth ride to passengers. 

A similar service also launched in Singapore at the end of August with free rides being made available to select members of the public. 

Last January, Lyft announced a $500m partnership with General Motors to launch an on-demand network of autonomous vehicles. Zimmer also predicts that by 2025, private car ownership will “all-but end in major US cities”.

He cites falling ownership and a greater reluctance to drive amongst younger generations. According to Zimmer, in 1983, 92 per cent of 20 to 24-year-olds had driver’s licences but this fell to 77 per cent by 2014. The proportion of 16-year-olds that had licences also fell in the same time period from 46 per cent to just 24 per cent.

“All told, a millennial today is 30 per cent less likely to buy a car than someone from the previous generation,” he said.

“A full shift to 'transportation as a service' is finally possible, because for the first time in human history, we have the tools to create a perfectly efficient transportation network.

“Until then, over the next five to 10 years there will be both driver and driverless cars on the road, which we call a hybrid network.”

He optimistically believes that by 2025, car ownership will have largely fallen out of favour with most US drivers who will instead opt to subscribe to a driverless service like Lyft’s.

Lyft is mostly based in America and has yet to launch its services in the UK.

Driverless technology has still yet to be fully rolled out to consumers despite considerable testing in real-world situations.

Tesla recently attracted criticism from partner Mobileye, which split with the company in July. It alleged that Tesla was "pushing the envelope in terms of safety" with regards to its Autopilot feature that has been incorporated into its Model S cars. 

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