waymo minivan

Google's Waymo teams up with Lyft to develop autonomous vehicles

Google’s driverless car initiative Waymo has teamed up with Uber’s largest rival Lyft to develop autonomous vehicle technology.

“Autonomous vehicle fleets will quickly become widespread and will account for the majority of Lyft rides within five years,” Lyft co-founder John 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.”

Meanwhile Waymo said the partnership would let its technology reach “more people, in more places”.

The auto industry and technology companies are racing to develop self-driving technology, which they expect in a number of years will transform transportation, cutting costs of ride services and changing the way people buy and use cars.

Uber is the biggest US ride service by volume and has been developing self-driving technology, which it sees as a key to its future, as it expands its ride service with human drivers.

Lyft is the second largest ride-sharing firm after Uber. Last year, Zimmer predicted that driverless taxis will be fully launched to consumers within just five years. 

Waymo has some of the most advanced self-driving vehicle technology and has been looking for partners, while Lyft offers ride services in about 300 US cities. Waymo recently sued Uber for allegedly stealing trade secrets from its driverless technology programme. 

Lyft has said the deal is non-exclusive and will allow it to continue a self-driving partnership with US automaker General Motors, which is a Lyft investor. 

GM plans to deploy thousands of self-driving electric cars in test fleets partnering with Lyft beginning 2018, sources told Reuters in February.

Lyft is at an extremely early stage in its autonomous efforts. It has relied heavily on General Motors for any testing and doesn’t have a program that rivals Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, the department in Uber dedicated to building self-driving technology.

Talks on the Waymo and Lyft collaboration between began last summer, a person familiar with the situation said.

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