This Sunday, Lyft’s president and co-founder John Zimmer presented an essay on the future of transportation in urban areas and announced that the ride-sharing company will fully embrace the emerging autonomous driving technology. More specifically, he predicted that by 2021, the majority of rides organized with the Lyft app will be conducted in driverless vehicles. Zimmer also expressed a deep conviction that personal car ownership will soon come to an end due to the fact that autonomous vehicles will become a significantly cheaper alternative to buying and maintaining a car in the near future.
This isn’t the first time one of Lyft’s representatives expressed specific interest in autonomous driving technology. The company has recently teamed up with General Motors (GM) in order to test self-driving cars in Phoenix and San Francisco and recent reports suggest that GM’s first driverless car will actually debut on Lyft soon. The fact that the San Francisco-based company is quickly transitioning to autonomous driving isn’t surprising given that its biggest competitor Uber is doing the same. Like Zimmer himself suggested, ride-hailing companies would definitely turn a bigger profit using cars that drive themselves as opposed to the cars that require drivers who need to be paid. Even if autonomous cars require humans to supervise them and act as backup drivers, they still cost less than full-time drivers.
Furthermore, Lyft’s president predicted that ride-sharing companies will start transitioning to driverless vehicles by exclusively offering autonomous rides at low speeds in good weather. According to Zimmer, this is because the industry can’t and isn’t willing to wait for the self-driving technology to be perfected and usable in virtually any situation. He also labeled autonomous driving technology as an inevitable consequence of urbanization in the 21st century given how self-driving cars have the ability to solve the problem of transportation for poorer people and lower the demand for parking spaces in urban areas. In addition to less pollution, a smaller number of cars that driverless technology would result in, would also indirectly lead to the repurposing of a large number of parking spaces, said Zimmer. Not surprisingly, many industry experts disagree and claim these predictions are overly ambitious but only time will tell whether the autonomous driving technology will be ready for commercial implementation in half a decade.