Ridesharing underdog Lyft has joined the ranks of Waymo and Baidu, among others, by being issued a permit for autonomous vehicle testing on public roads by California’s Department of Motor Vehicles. This means that Lyft now has the same privileges and responsibilities as any other firm in the area who has been allowed to conduct such testing. The company has been working closely with Waymo in developing its own self-driving system to use in its fleet. The fact that Lyft has applied for and been granted a permit to test its vehicles publicly in California likely means that they’re very close to being ready for actual public use.
Autonomous car makers in California, as a condition of being allowed to test their hardware and software on public roads, have to provide the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles with certain safety data. This dataset includes, but is certainly not limited to, how often vehicles are forced to hand over control to a human safety driver, and details of any accidents the vehicles are involved in, whether they’re determined to be at fault or not. The accident reports, in their full detail, are not considered to be public information that’s fit for disclosure, due to their intimate nature and the fact that they could contain classified details on how the self-driving cars work. Because of this, parts of them are redacted in the versions available for public viewing. The disengagement reports, meanwhile, are fully public.
Lyft has been working toward creating its own spin on the self-driving car technology craze for some time now but got a boost from Waymo through a recent partnership. After living in Uber’s shadow since its inception, Lyft may be able to pull ahead once self-driving cars truly take off. Uber was involved in a lawsuit over trade secrets that it allegedly stole from Waymo in a roundabout fashion, and the case left the company’s ability to create and test self-driving vehicles severely crippled. The company was not doing well in that regard, however; Uber’s vehicles had the highest disengagement rates among peers in a recent report. Despite that trend, Uber attempted to level the playing field a bit by striking a deal with Volvo to create and deploy 24,000 self-driving vehicles, so only time will tell who will become the household name in autonomous transportation once people actually begin hailing self-driving cabs.