A trained driver will still sit in the driver’s seat.
“We want to make sure the experience feels as much like an autonomous vehicle experience as possible”, Reiley said.
Lyft and Drive.ai wouldn’t give details on when or exactly where the pilot will occur, other than “soon” and “in the Bay Area”.
The pilot, which will deploy in the Bay Area soon, will provide valuable insight on how autonomous vehicles can be used effectively and help Lyft optimize the passenger experience. For Lyft riders, the experience will resemble a typical ride, she said. For example, people who take a Lyft ride in a driverless vehicle could be surveyed through the Lyft app at the end of their trip, though Reiley said there’s no specific agreement in place to share that kind of data between Lyft and Drive.ai.
Initially, the pilot will involve a small set of passengers who will opt in to this program, Taggart Matthiesen, senior director of product of Lyft, told The Verge.
Reiley said Drive.ai and Lyft have been in talks for a while, and she sees their partnership as a natural fit. Lyft is the fastest growing rideshare company in the US and is available in more than 350 cities.
As for when passengers will be able to catch a ride in one of these cars? Lyft does not have a permit.
Started in 2015 by Reiley and engineers from Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence Lab, Drive.ai received $50 million in venture funding in late June, bringing its total backing to $62 million.
But in July, the ride-hailing company said it was starting to work on its own autonomous vehicle software and hardware.
Drive.ai uses a different approach from other companies racing to deploy autonomous vehicles.
Once a ride is requested, Drive.ai’s software will evaluate whether or not the route is feasible, said Carol Reiley, co-founder and president of Drive.ai.
An Audi test vehicle equipped with Drive.Ai’s self-driving technology.
The move will further position Lyft against Uber, which has launched autonomous-car pilots in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Phoenix. It also tests the cars in San Francisco but no longer picks up passengers here, after a brief period in December, which ended when state regulators pulled the plug on that program. And it’s now embroiled in a lawsuit filed by Waymo alleging that it stole trade secrets when it acquired Otto, which was started by longtime Google self-driving project engineer Anthony Levandowski. This collaboration combines Drive.ai’s deep learning-based self-driving solution with Lyft’s extensive ridesharing network, furthering both companies commitment to the development of safe, intelligent autonomous vehicles. It positions its ride-hailing service as “an open platform” for self-driving auto providers to dispatch their vehicles with passengers using the Lyft app. Lyft previously announced a deal with MA startup NuTonomy to provide robot taxi rides in Boston sometime this year.
Lyft also boasts partnerships with Jaguar Land Rover and General Motors. “Pilot programs like this are vital to build awareness and familiarity with autonomous vehicle technology, and Drive.ai is committed to working with great businesses like Lyft in order to do so”, said Drive.ai CEO Sameep Tandon.
Drive.ai is going to be operating some of its test fleet on Lyft’s open platform, which Lyft created to help carmakers and self-driving tech companies build and deploy autonomous vehicles in the real world, and to eventually serve as on-demand ride hailing vehicles.