Lyft Will Still Need Human Drivers Even After Self-Driving Cars Arrive, Exec Says

The arrival of autonomous vehicles apparently won’t mean the end for the company’s fleshy organic pilots.

byWill Sabel Courtney| UPDATED Jul 24, 2017 4:26 PM
Lyft Will Still Need Human Drivers Even After Self-Driving Cars Arrive, Exec Says

Like many companies involved in the automotive world these days, Lyft is marching its way into the world of self-driving cars. Late last week, the company announced its intentions to build on its network of existing autonomous vehicle partnerships by creating its own in-house division dedicated to developing self-driving cars—all as part of its stated goal of providing a billion rides a year in electric robo-taxis by 2025. Sounds great, if you're Lyft. Not so great if you're one of the roughly 700,000 people currently keeping the lights on by driving for the company. 

But according to Raj Kapoor, Lyft's chief strategy officer, the ride-hailing company will always need human drivers for some tasks. For one thing, Kapoor told CNBC's "Squawk Box" there are some jobs that only people can do—like helping the sick and aged in and out of vehicles. 

"There are new opportunities that are going to be created for drivers. We're seeing a surge in demand for health care, elderly related assistance services that are there that require drivers," he told CNBC

"You'll have cafe services in cars as well," he added, immediately prompting the mental image of mobile Starbucks vehicles where baristas douse riders with scalding coffee at every pothole. 

On top of that, he suggested old-fashioned Lyft drivers would still need to be around in order to meet the demands of the market. As Kapoor told CNBC, the thing consumers care the most about is knowing that a car will show up quickly when they request one. "For that kind of ubiquity," he said, "you need to have human drivers."

After all, no matter what Elon Musk says, true self-driving cars are still a few years away from even reaching large-scale production—let alone saturating the market.

Pictured: Lyft CEO John Zimmer, as we couldn't find a picture of Raj Kapoor in a Lyft vehicle.