Lyft will open a collaborative self-driving facility in Palo Alto, California, the ride-hailing giant said on Thursday, with its Chief Strategy Officer Raj Kapoor adding that this particular investment is meant to be realized in a swift manner, though without providing a more specific time frame to accompany that announcement. The initiative marks a notable departure from the San Francisco, California-based company's previous approach to autonomous driving technologies; while the firm's top management often made bold predictions in regards to the commercialization of driverless vehicles in the past, it was so far adamant to not pursue their technological backend by itself and was instead looking to support tech companies by allowing them to test their solutions within Lyft's network.
The spirit of the aforementioned approach is still contained within Lyft's latest initiative, as the company said that its upcoming lab will be a place where the firm will be able to collaborate with a number of third-parties that have the expertise in developing self-driving technologies or are already actively pursuing them, with the ride-hailing service stating that it will provide its partners with data from its car network in an effort to help them achieve their ambitions. Lyft still won't be manufacturing driverless vehicles on its own, yet its decision to adopt a more hands-on approach to advancing this emerging field will see it hire "several hundred" experts who are all set to work in the Palo Alto lab.
Lyft recently announced a major self-driving partnership with Alphabet's Waymo that will see them collaborate on the development of related technologies, though the two companies have yet to share any specifics on their joint endeavor which may be directly related to the new Californian lab. The firm's decision to become more directly involved in the development of driverless solutions might be a deliberate move to adopt a business strategy similar to that currently pursued by Uber, wherein Lyft's largest competitor is creating proprietary self-driving technologies that it hopes will power its self-driving cars of the future and be a cheaper alternative to human drivers, consequently helping it increase its profit margins. That plan was recently endangered by Waymo itself, with Alphabet's subsidiary filing a lawsuit against Uber and alleging that it stole its LiDAR designs, consequently putting Uber's prospects in this field into question. It remains to be seen whether Lyft's Palo Alto lab is meant to at least partially capitalize on the situation by possibly poaching some staffers from Uber at a turbulent time for its competitor which also recently lost its CEO.