By: Raj Kapoor, Chief Strategy Officer; and Luc Vincent, EVP Autonomous Driving
In conversations about self-driving cars, people often talk about the rush to full autonomy like they’re commentators on a race — tracking new developments in technology, analyzing the strategic moves of the companies hurrying to be first. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement when we’re on the verge of a such an important shift for our society.
But let’s step back and answer some more fundamental questions: Why do we need autonomous vehicles? Why is it important that we develop this technology? And why, for such a challenging and important issue, aren’t we collaborating to address this opportunity together?
At Lyft, self-driving cars are vital to our vision of the future — a future in which cities are built around people, and not cars. We want to unlock self-driving tech because it will help people get where they need to go more safely, quickly and affordably than ever before, without having to own a car. We also believe in self-driving tech because it can save ten million lives a decade globally by reducing drunk driving and avoidable accidents.
We are on the verge of a societal shift that fundamentally changes how we live and move. A shift that is necessary if we want to reduce climate change, congestion, and road fatalities.
And as an industry, if we truly believe in this vision and promise of self-driving cars, we also have to recognize that, in a very real way, we’re all in this together. On behalf of everyone who will ever climb into a self-driving car — or whose community will be reshaped by them — we all have a stake in getting this right. And getting it right means working together in unprecedented ways.
Prioritizing Safety Above All Else
That’s why under the leadership of John Maddox, our senior director of compliance and safety, we’re excited to join SAE International, Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Uber ATG and Daimler as a core member of the Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium (AVSC). With John’s direction, Lyft was able to ensure the coalition included the technology sector at the table along with the auto industry.
This initiative aligns with our mission of prioritizing safety as we deploy self-driving cars, and it will allow industry leaders to align on frameworks for safety, share best practices, and foster cross-sector collaboration. Never before have automotive and technology leaders brought their industries together in this way, and we are incredibly excited to be an integral part of this unprecedented collaboration.
With self-driving innovation moving so quickly, it is essential to have the infrastructure for industry and government collaboration to expedite development of safety standards and merge new ideas with proven safety processes. In the same way that standards were implemented for airbags, seatbelts, and other features we now take for granted, this coalition has come together to ensure there are consistent, thoughtful and industry-leading frameworks in place to inform standards as this technology develops.
As a multi-modal transportation network, Lyft brings valuable insights to self-driving safety gained from the millions of rides on its platform every day. And we are committed to producing results, as noted by the executive director of the Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium, Edward Straub: “Lyft is a vocal advocate for tackling head-on the most challenging problems facing automated vehicles, including how to measure and assure safety. The experiences they bring in developing and testing advanced technologies will further broaden AVSC’s perspectives.
Our Commitment to Collaboration
We firmly believe the only way we succeed in bringing this technology to market is by bringing all stakeholders together. That has been Lyft’s strategy from day one.
Since the launch of our Self-Driving Platform in 2017, we have focused on collaboration ahead of a winner takes all mentality, giving the best players in the market the ability to launch their self-driving cars on the Lyft network. Last year, we launched what’s now the largest publicly-available commercial self-driving program with Aptiv vehicles in Las Vegas. Together, we’ve now provided self-driving rides to over 50,000 Lyft passengers. We’re also excited to have recently partnered with Waymo to provide rides through the Lyft network in Phoenix.
When we began developing our own self-driving system at Lyft Level 5, partnership was at the center of our agenda, too. We know building a full self-driving system takes automotive grade manufacturing and so we joined with Magna, the largest North American Tier 1 automotive technology and manufacturing supplier, to co-develop, manufacture and deploy self-driving technology. They bring over six decades of automotive excellence and are a important partner on our path to market.
Then, after developing and innovating our stack for the last two years, we realized we had a chance to further help level the playing field for all researchers interested in autonomous technology. That’s why we recently announced a plan to share some of what we’ve learned along the way. The public can now access a section of our dataset — one of the largest of its kind — with over 55,000 human-labeled 3D annotated frames. Our goal is to enable the research and academic community to innovate in the self-driving space.
Again and again, we’ve seen how much farther we can get when we work together.
A call to the industry: Let’s share the road towards an open future
The bottom line is this: We want to help self-driving safely reach scale because we understand the benefits — and we think everyone should have access to them. Our ultimate goal is to democratize access to self-driving technology and build a world where everyone can take on-demand, reliable, low cost, safe transportation, without ever owning a car.
As we’ve said in the past, “Self-driving is too big — and too important — an endeavor for any one team to solve alone. Transportation serves all of us, and we should all be invested in the next step of its evolution.”
With so much potential and so much at stake, we can’t afford to just look at this like a horse race — with companies working alone, racing to the finish line, rushing out tech. Not when human lives are at risk. And not when we could improve so many lives by getting this right.