John Zimmer, co-founder and current president of Lyft has recently provided some deeper insight into what got him interested in getting involved and joining that venture, as well as what prompted him to pursue autonomous transportation. According to the ride-hailing executive, the company's participation in the pursuit of autonomous vehicle technologies shouldn't come as a shock to anybody. The industry, he says, was already headed in that direction and the way consumer perspectives have changed. Specifically, those customers aren't just looking to save money, Zimmer says. They're looking for a better service at a substantially lower cost than that of owning and operating a vehicle.
Two ways exist to lower the costs, he continues, are things that Lyft refers to as "Lyft Line" and "autonomous." The first of those centers around more standard ride-hailing. However, unlike the standard model that the company is more known for, the focus would be on taking multiple people to and from destinations in a single vehicle. Those people wouldn't necessarily need to know each other but would instead be joined by coinciding destinations and routes. In either case, Zimmer claims, the cities of the future need to be designed around people rather than cars. As part of that, car ownership will need to be replaced and regardless of the research and development costs of that, that's the direction the industry and Lyft are headed. Meanwhile, Zimmer says that he doesn't see driverless vehicles replacing most driving jobs at all. Instead, they will almost certainly serve best as ways to move people around in congested cities. The benefits to society, presumably fewer pollutants in the air, safer travel, and cost savings, will almost certainly outweigh the initial costs. In particular, the executive points to a safer means of movement for pedestrians and cyclists.
However, Zimmer rightly points out that scaling up is going to need to happen and sees a 10-year minimum timeline for real progress to occur. Right now, only around 1-percent of road miles traveled yearly are via either self-driving or ridesharing platforms. It will take, he postulates, at least a decade before that number approaches 80-percent. As mentioned above, however, if commercial transportation and ridesharing continue to grow, that will equate to a massive influx of jobs for drivers too. Whether or not Zimmer turns out to be correct, his views on the matter are on par with the majority of industry leaders. While some might postulate a 5-year timeline, and most think the vehicles will be on the road sooner, the leading estimates for ubiquitousness are different. Those typically put the technology at least 10 years out. So Zimmer's reserved optimism about the situation may not be too far out from how things will ultimately turn out.