(Reuters) — Lyft Inc has shaped a self-driving automobile division, firm executives stated, a daring funding for the second-largest U.S. ride-services agency because it jockeys for place within the extremely aggressive autonomous automobile race.

The executives stated on Thursday the corporate would quickly open a facility in Palo Alto, California, that might ultimately be staffed by “several hundred” engineers. Lyft engineers will collaborate there with autonomous automobile specialists from different firms to construct self-driving systems.

“We are putting down the accelerator significantly on investment on this,” Raj Kapoor, chief technique officer for Lyft, instructed reporters at its San Francisco headquarters.

The transfer marks a placing technique change for Lyft, which stated beforehand it might go away the constructing of self-driving systems to others whereas permitting companions to check their autonomous automobiles in Lyft’s ride-hailing community.

Lyft beforehand announced partnerships with Alphabet’s self-driving division, Waymo, know-how firm Nutonomy, and automakers Common Motors Co and Jaguar Land Rover. Lyft’s new effort may put it in direct competitors with a few of these companions.


The corporate, which is not going to be manufacturing the precise automobiles, supplied no time line for its self-driving ambitions. Executives stated Lyft would share information from its self-driving efforts with different firms becoming a member of the collaboration.

Lyft doesn’t have a allow to check autonomous automobiles in California, in line with the state Division of Motor Automobiles. The corporate plans to launch a pilot with Nutonomy in Boston by year-end.

Constructing autonomous driving systems is an advanced and costly endeavor, and brings a brand new layer of complexity to Lyft. Not like its far bigger rival, Uber Applied sciences Inc, which has tackled the whole lot from meals supply to flying automobiles, and expanded abroad, Lyft has operated strictly as a experience service for individuals in america.

Lyft’s 700,000 drivers full greater than 200 million rides and 1.2 billion miles (1.9 billion km) a yr within the 350 cities the place it operates, which executives stated gave the corporate detailed information of visitors patterns, bridges, development and different roadway information crucial for constructing autonomous systems.

“The one thing that is very, very key is the scale that we have,” stated Luc Vincent, vp of engineering.

None of these miles have been pushed with autonomous know-how, specialists level out, which means Lyft might be ranging from scratch in a enterprise the place Waymo, Tesla and Uber have been working for years.

“It does still take a lot to do this, even if there is lots off-the-shelf technology, to engineer them together and create systems and put them in a vehicle,” stated Jeremy Carlson, an automotive analyst at IHS Markit.

Lyft’s new push comes as Uber is going through a lawsuit from Waymo over alleged theft of commerce secrets and techniques referring to self-driving know-how designs.

Lyft in April raised $600 million in new funding. The corporate has begun preparations for an preliminary public providing, sources near the corporate instructed Reuters.

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