Long-term, robot taxis will lower ride costs, inspiring more consumers to subscribe to transportation services, rather than owning their own cars, Kapoor said, analogous to how the cheaper rides from Uber and Lyft grew the industry beyond the size of the taxi market.
Lyft's plan to build in-house self-driving technology is a pivot from its strategy of primarily focusing on building partnerships with vehicle manufacturers, like General Motors and Jaguar Land Rover, or self-driving auto startups like nuTonomy. Early partners include Waymo, nuTonomy, Jaguar, Land Rover and General Motors. The company plans to roll out a self-driving pilot program in Boston with autonomous vehicle company Nutonomy.
The ride sharing company has chose to start a self-driving division with a facility in Palo Alto, California, rather than continuing to rely on partnerships to gain the technology in what company leadership is calling the Open Platform Initiative, CNBC reported.
"Drivers play an important role and will continue to play an important role", Kapoor said. "You can't just be looking for partners to do it". It's impossible to know when fully autonomous vehicles will be available for public consumption. It is also unclear how much, if any, revenue the autonomous carmakers will receive from Lyft when their vehicles successfully complete a ride. It can buy sensor devices like lidar off the shelf.
Lyft's cice president of engineering Luc Vincent pointed out that partnerships, also, will make the entire process of bringing autonomous vehicles to market more cost-effective, because you're sharing "lots of off-the-shelf equipment [and] lots of building blocks of software".
Automakers without self-driving cars will find an eager partner in Lyft. "I think Lyft is big enough to do that, but I'm not sure what the business case is for them to do this part of it".
Lyft's effort has been quieter and smaller.
Lyft, in contrast, is acting a bit more like Google in its development of the Android operating system.
That's a different approach to how some of Lyft's rivals are tackling the autonomous challenge.