Lyft will soon be testing out autonomous cars.
On Tuesday, the ride-hailing company plans to announce a new partnership with nuTonomy, a self-driving car software startup from MIT. NuTonomy currently has three cars it’s been testing on public roads in Boston. The two companies plan to put Lyft passengers in those cars within a few months.
Lyft is focused on safety and reliability, company CEO Logan Green said in a conference call with reporters. Meanwhile, nuTonomy has extensively tested its self-driving car system for safety, he said.
“By combining forces, we’re building the best experience for an autonomous ride,” Green said.
The date for when the test will launch is still “TBD,” nuTonomy CEO Karl Iagnemma said, because the companies are still working with the city of Boston.
The two companies are working together to prepare for the era of self-driving Lyfts. They’re trying to plan out the whole experience from a customer ordering a ride to getting in the car to what happens while the ride is underway. They’re also redesigning the Lyft app to run on tablets placed inside the self-driving cars, Green said.
But the two companies disclosed few other details about the partnership. Green declined to say whether the self-driving car test will be open to the public at large or be limited to certain customers.
He also wouldn’t say whether Lyft was sending staff to Boston or whether nuTonomy would send employees to work at Lyft’s headquarters in San Francisco. And the companies declined to say who would be responsible for expanding nuTonomy’s fleet from the three cars it has in Boston to the thousands Lyft envisions could one day be on the network.
Green did say, though, that no money is changing hands as a result of the pairing.
NuTonomy’s tie-up with Lyft won’t be its first time working with a ride-hailing company. The MIT spinoff had already partnered with another startup, Grab, to provide the world’s first self-driving taxis in Singapore.
Iagnemma said he searched carefully for a North American partner.
“My job is to make sure nuTonomy is part of a winning team,” Iagnemma said.
Unlike Uber, which has been developing its self-driving cars in-house, Lyft has opted to work with partners. The company struck a deal with GM in 2016, including a $US500 million investment, to work together on autonomous vehicles. Lyft also recently announced a deal with Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Google parent company Alphabet, but details on that team-up have been even harder to come by than Lyft’s deal with nuTonomy.
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