Lyft has passed Uber in the race toward fully autonomous vehicle services by officially launching its self-driving cars in Boston, Massachusetts.
As of now, the operating driverless Lyft cars also include a backup human driver who is ready to take control in case any issues arise.
App users in Boston are still randomly assigned to the self-driving vehicles, as a routine function of the app.
The driverless vehicles have been put into motion as part of a pilot program by both Lyft and the self-driving car startup, nuTonomy. The purpose of the pilot is to begin getting people accustomed to riding in fully autonomous vehicles.
“Our partnership with Lyft has two goals,” NuTonomy said in a blog post. “First, we want to let members of the public experience driverless vehicles firsthand, so they can better understand the impact this new technology will have on their lives. Second, based on feedback from pilot participants, NuTonomy’s engineers will adapt and improve our system, so that we can deliver an autonomous transportation experience that is extremely safe, efficient, and comfortable.”
The pilot program gives select passengers, located within the Seaport-area, a ride in one of nuTonomy’s new driverless Renault cars.
"We want to let members of the public experience driverless vehicles firsthand, so they can better understand the impact this new technology will have on their lives," NuTonomy stated on its website.
This move sets Lyft apart from its biggest rival, Uber Technologies Inc.
Uber just began piloting driverless vehicles in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona. However, the company has been involved with several accidents and traffic infractions that have sparked a major debate about Uber’s safety protocols.
In recent news, Uber spokespersons have announced that the company is working on a fleet of flying taxis that it plans to introduce in Los Angeles by 2020.
Boston city officials approved the Lyft/nuTonomy pilot program in October. Certain city officials have also expressed their hopes to gain insight into how people interact with a ride-sharing autonomous service, as well as how it could complement the city’s public transit system.
Lyft has not disclosed how many driverless vehicles it currently has in operation throughout Boston.
In an effort to stay ahead of rival Uber, Lyft is collaborating with Drive.ai to deploy autonomous taxis in San Francisco, and has separate agreements with companies including Ford and Alphabet’s Waymo.
NuTonomy, which was bought earlier this year by auto supplier Delphi Automotive, is also testing its own autonomous taxis in Singapore.
Due to Lyft’s commitment to building an “in-house self-driving software,” the ride-sharing company is on its way to leading the world of driverless carpooling.