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Lyft's 10-Year Plan for Autonomous Cars

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author photo by Lindsay Martell October 2016

Need a lift? You may if Lyft's plan for autonomous or automated cars becomes a reality. The company predicts that in 10 years, owning a car will be a thing of the past.

Lyft's CEO, John Zimmer, has a handful of bold plans for the future of autonomous cars. He outlined Lyft's forward-thinking ideas by detailing four shifts in a lengthy essay on Medium, beginning with the announcement that autonomous vehicle fleets will account for the majority of Lyft rides within 5 years. This news comes just about a year after GM invested $500 million in the ride-sharing company to create an on-demand network of self-driving cars.

Bold Predictions

Company plans aside, Zimmer's boldest prediction affects millions of Americans. By 2025, he writes, "private car ownership will all but end in major U.S. cities." Ride-sharing has already begun to empower many people to live without owning a car, he adds.

"Every year, more and more people are concluding that it is simpler and more affordable to live without a car. And when networked autonomous vehicles come onto the scene, below the cost of car ownership, most city-dwellers will stop using a personal car altogether."

Before you think about ditching your car, the next 5 to 10 years will be made up of both driver and driverless cars on the road, which Zimmer calls a hybrid network.

Semiautonomous

At first, fully autonomous cars will be restricted on scores of levels. They'll only be able to travel at low speeds; they need to avoid certain weather conditions; and there will be specific intersections and roads they'll have to navigate around. As technology improves, these cars will be able to drive themselves in more and more situations. In theory, Lyft could initially have a fleet of autonomous cars that completes rides under 25 miles per hour on flat, dry roads. Then, little by little, the fleet can be upgraded to handle rides under similar conditions at 35 mph. This would continue until an autonomous car could complete every type of trip.

Drivers Needed

If you think Lyft's plan means human drivers are no longer needed, Zimmer wants people to breathe a sigh of relief, because it's actually the opposite. In the coming years, taking a ride in an autonomous vehicle will be less expensive than any options today and will lead to more people using ride-share options for more of their transportation needs. As more people trade their keys for ride-sharing, the overall market will grow dramatically. When autonomous cars can only manage a portion of those trips, more ride-share drivers will be needed to provide service to the growing market of former car owners.

From sharing rides to reimagined cities, Lyft aims to change how we think about getting around.

Editor’s Note: Since this is new technology, some terms are new or being newly applied. To make some minor semantic differences clearer to the average consumer, we’ve created a separate article that points out the differences and similarities in words like “Self-driving” and “Autonomous.” For consistency, we have also updated the text in this article.

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Lyft's 10-Year Plan for Autonomous Cars - Autotrader