Lyft to trial driverless cars on US roads

Driverless taxis could hit the streets in a matter of years after Lyft – a rival to private car-hailing app Uber – announced plans to test them on US roads.

Detroit-based automotive firm General Motors and Lyft will road-test a fleet of autonomous Chevrolet Bolt electric taxis within a year, as the driverless car revolution gathers pace.

The plan, unveiled just a few months after Uber announced a similar move, is expected to involve customers testing the new service in a US city that has yet to be chosen. Customers who use the app are expected to be offered a choice of whether they want to be part of the trials or would prefer a human driver.

Lyft’s prototype app for the service is understood to include options that allow the passenger to order their robot chauffeur to tell them when they have reached their destination.

The testing programme is not reliant on GM completing a $1bn (£700m) takeover on Cruise Automation, a San Francisco firm specialising in driverless technology, industry sources said. But if the deal goes ahead, it would give GM’s efforts to develop driverless vehicles a substantial boost.

Firms such as Lyft and Uber have latched on to the emerging driverless car technology, which would allow them to slash the cost of a journey by eliminating drivers altogether. The two firms have formed the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets with Ford, Google and Volvo, to lobby in the US for driverless technology, which they say can dramatically reduce the rate of road accidents. For firms such as GM, teaming up with Lyft opens up a ready-made market for vehicles suited to being part of a taxi fleet.

Uber is yet to announce plans to road-test driverless taxis but last year launched the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh. The investment suggests that while Lyft is relying on a partnership with GM, Uber plans to develop in-house more of the technology used in driverless cars.

While firms such as Lyft and Uber could emerge as big winners from autonomous driving, industry figures recently warned that motor insurers could suffer, as a steep decline in accidents sends premiums tumbling.


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