Lyft Says Robot Car Future Is Fast Approaching

Lyft At Its San Francisco Headquarters Showcasing Lyft Cars, The Glowstache

The landscape of driving will change significantly over the coming years, predicts Lyft co-founder and president John Zimmer.

On Sunday, the company president published an article titled “The Third Transportation Revolution,” detailing his predictions for Lyft’s future and the future of cars. In it, he predicts the rise of the autonomous car as technology develops, going so far as to claim that most of Lyft’s driving vehicles will be autonomous cars in five years.

[Image by Mike Coppolo/Getty Images]

“Today, our business is dependent on being experts at maximizing utilization and managing peak hours, which allow us to provide the most affordable rides,” Zimmer said. “This core competency translates when we move to an autonomous network. In other words, Lyft will provide a better value and a superior experience to customers.”

Zimmer also predicts that private car ownership would virtually end by 2025, allowing city planning and design to change to a less car-centered layout.

“The end of private car ownership means we’ll have far fewer cars sitting parked and empty,” Zimmer said. “And that means we’ll have the chance to redesign our entire urban fabric. Cities of the future must be built around people, not vehicles.”

This would mean a significant decrease in parking garages and lots, and expanded sidewalks and pedestrian areas that are more friendly to walkers. The autonomous future would also cut down on gas emissions and traffic, Zimmer argues, improving quality of life in the cities.

“In 2011, researchers estimated that there are at least 700 million parking spaces in the U.S,” Zimmer said. “That means our country has more than 6,000 square miles of parking — bigger than my home state of Connecticut.”

According to Zimmer, the move to autonomous cars would take place in three phases, the first currently ongoing. These phases are divided into autonomous cars that require human supervisors and intervention, autonomous cars that are self-functioning but restricted, and autonomous cars that have full driving capabilities.

The article also announced company plans to launch the first autonomously driven cars as part of Lyft’s fleet in 2017, an integral part of Zimmer’s vision for the future.

“I know what we have to do,” Zimmer said. “We must come together and grab this golden ticket to redesign an even greater home. A home that drives community — not cars — to the center of our everyday life.”

The company partnered with General Motors in January of this year, receiving $500 million from the car company in exchange for 10 percent of Lyft and an agreement to develop an autonomous car network.

[Image By John Sciulli/Getty Images]

However, GM does not appear to share Zimmer’s vision of a rideshare future. CEO Mary Barra said “We realized that autonomous technology will first be introduced in a shared mode. But there will be a point where there will be an individual owner as well; that’s why we’re working on both.”

And Lyft is certainly not alone in working on autonomous car technology. Google has been at the forefront of the self-driving car for years, joined by peers such as Ford and Apple.

The autonomous car project appears to have government support as well. Federal auto safety regulators indicated that autonomous driving may be a safer future, providing people with transportation that can keep them safe and travel efficiently.

“We envision in the future, you can take your hand off the wheel, and your commute becomes restful or productive instead of frustrating and exhausting,” said Director of the National Economic Council Jeffrey Zients.

The Department of Transportation released guidelines for safety standards for an autonomous car future. “What we are trying to do is avoid a patchwork of state laws,” said Secretary of the DoT Anthony Foxx.

[Featured Image By Mike Coppola/Getty Images]