Ridesharing company Lyft has announced that it will be partnering up with Magna, one of the largest suppliers in the auto industry, to create its own self-driving system. Lyft and Magna's goal is not only to get autonomous Lyft vehicles onto public roads around the world, but also to create a platform that can be used by automakers worldwide to create self-driving cars. The kicker with the platform is that it will be integrated with Lyft's own systems, which means that any vehicle built with it will have access to Lyft's ridesharing system. Essentially, this move will allow Lyft to build a sort of shadow fleet that does not necessarily consist of contracted vehicles, but makes it easy for vehicles in the fleet to be used with Lyft if the creator or owner wishes. In order to help make all of this happen, Magna is buying up an equity stake in Lyft for $200 million.
The way that the deal will reportedly work is with Lyft developing the software for the system in Palo Alto, and Magna manufacturing the hardware that makes integration of the system possible. Magna will be working closely with Lyft's engineers to develop a solution that's able to meet all of the needs of the self-driving software that the pair design together. The goal of the project, according to Lyft CEO Logan Green, is to start out by deploying level 4 autonomous vehicles, self-driving cars that can mostly match human drivers, but still require some help occasionally. Eventually, the company wants to deploy level 5 vehicles, which are fully autonomous at all times and are able to readily best human drivers in reflexes, perception, and judgment.
This project is not a replacement for Lyft's independent efforts in self-driving cars, which have thus far culminated in tests in controlled facilities in California. The company also has a partnership of largely undisclosed nature with Waymo, a venture that represents Google's take on the self-driving car craze. Lyft may well develop and deploy all of these efforts independently, though the company could just as easily combine the three different solutions somehow. Given the outcome of Waymo's legal battle with Uber, Lyft would be wise to tread lightly in its other self-driving ventures, or at the very least maintain proof that it did not misappropriate Waymo's trade secrets at any point during the processes of developing and deploying other solutions.