In just a few years, passengers hailing a Lyft may not see a driver’s name or face on their mobile phone app.
This is not a move toward anonymity by the rideshare company, but rather one toward driverless technology.
Last week, Ford Motor Company and Lyft came to an agreement that positions the two companies side by side in an effort to bring self-driving vehicles to mainstream culture.
“We’re announcing a significant step toward bringing self-driving vehicles to the masses thanks to a new partnership with Lyft that will help both companies progress toward a more affordable, dependable and accessible transportation future,” said Sherif Marakby, Ford’s vice president of Autonomous Vehicles and Electrification.
The deal will allow Ford access to Lyft’s data and on-road experience with customers, and gives the car manufacturer a market for their driverless vehicles. In return, Lyft will not have to construct autonomous vehicles alone, and will boost profit margins after phasing out human drivers.
The two companies have given no specific details to what their partnership will produce, nor a timeline for when. But, loose predictions state that the businesses will first focus on building autonomous vehicles that have Lyft drivers supervising. Then, by 2021, Ford will work to put fully driverless cars on the road, with passengers inside.
Within the last year or so, Lyft has amassed a list of industry allies in Ford, Jaguar, Waymo, Nutonomy, and Drive.ai. While the ride-hailing service is moving quickly, neither companies’ officials are in any rush to create a fully autonomous car.
“Some view the opportunity with self-driving vehicles as a race to be first,” said Marakby. “We don’t, however, plan to put customers in them until we are certain our technology delivers a positive, reassuring experience where we can gain meaningful feedback.”
This progress for Lyft comes at an auspicious time for the ridesharing service. In July, the Uber competitor reached an average of 1 million rides per day—data suggesting that Lyft is actually growing faster than its rival.
Ford officials, for their part, are happy to be teaming with the fast-growing firm.
“We expect that [Ford’s] partnership with Lyft will accelerate our efforts to build a profitable and viable self-driving vehicle business . . . to mainstream consumers,” Marakby said.