Lyft launches its own self-driving car business

Lyft wants to become a more significant player in the autonomous vehicle ecosystem.

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On-demand car service Lyft has announced that it will begin developing its own driverless car technology in an effort to become a more significant player in the autonomous vehicle ecosystem.

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"We want to take a proactive role into pushing the industry into a more open environment," said Raj Kapoor, Lyft's chief strategy officer, at a media event this week. "The only way to do that is to go deeper and to develop these technologies."

To that end, the San Francisco, Calif.-based company is forming a business division to be staffed with hundreds of Silicon Valley engineers. It will focus solely on the development of autonomous vehicle software and hardware.

Lyft said its technology will be an agnostic, open platform that will allow a multitude of partners to bring in their own self-driving vehicles that can simply plug into the Lyft network and operate autonomously. In other words, Lyft is not manufacturing its own car -- it's building a self-driving system and partnering with the auto industry.

"What we're doing now is creating the software and hardware to enable a car to be autonomous," said Kapoor. "We're going to be creating that technology, and then working with partners in the auto industry who are going to be creating the vehicles, bringing the two together, and also putting those on the Lyft network."

Lyft said it will continue its work with current partners including Waymo, NuTonomy and General Motors. GM invested $500 million in Lyft last year as part of the ride-sharing startup's $1 billion funding round. The car maker's investment was labelled a long-term strategic alliance by both parties, with a primary objective to co-develop a network of on-demand autonomous vehicles.

In early June, Lyft unveiled its Open Platform Initiative, which aims to encourage better partnerships between automakers and tech companies developing self-driving cars.

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