Lyft exec says there's going to be a 'gut-wrenching decade' in autonomous vehicles before there's a clear winner

Wesley Verhoeve/PivotalRaj Kapoor, chief strategy officer at Lyft
  • Lyft executive Raj Kapoor thinks autonomous driving companies are “going to go through a gut-wrenching decade” before there are clear standards or winners.
  • He even thinks Lyft has the chance to dethrone Google Maps as the leader in routing technology, thanks to the data it gathers from its 800,000 rideshare drivers.
  • Kapoor said the current lack of standardization is encouraging partnerships. Companies like Lyft and Alphabet’s Waymo team together so they can experiment more than they might be able to on their own.

SAUSALITO, California – It may seem like Uber and Alphabet’s Waymo have taken the lead in autonomous vehicles. But Lyft’s chief strategy officer Raj Kapoor thinks the battle is far from over.

“There’s going to be an opportunity for a lot of people in this ecosystem,” Kapoor said, during a stage appearance on Monday at a conference sponsored by software company Pivotal. “But we’re going to go through a gut-wrenching decade or so where everyone is jostling for a position.”

It’s not just about which rideshare companies bring autonomous vehicles to market first, either. Kapoor thinks there’s work to be done across every aspect of the industry, from insurance practices to government regulation.

Take Google Maps, which Kapoor said is ripe for disruption. While Google’s route planning software and panoramic street view made it a market leader for the past decade, autonomous vehicles need much more information than Google Map provides.

Driverless cars need maps with information down to the centimeter, Kapoor said.

According to Kapoor, Lyft is using its 800,000 drivers to gather driving data which will be used to create high-definition maps for its autonomous vehicle unit.

Standardization is also a big concern, Kapoor said, particularly because any time a new technology is introduced, autonomous vehicle companies must retrain and retest their vehicles for safety.

It’s one reason why Lyft has cozied up to Waymo for a partnership: it means companies can try a lot of different technologies and approaches without fully committing.

“The complexity, and the lack of standards, is causing a lot of vertical integrations and partnerships of ‘maybe I can use this technology,'” Kapoor said.

Kapoor was speaking Pivotal’s Built to Adapt, a one-day conference for C-level executives.

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