Lyft is launching a pilot autonomous ride-sharing service in the San Francisco Bay Area, with help from startup Drive.ai. It's yet another partnership for the ride-sharing company, which has already teamed with startup NuTonomy to launch an autonomous ride-sharing pilot in Boston and also has a relationship with Waymo—not to mention its own in-house self-driving car development program.
Self-driving car cars will begin picking up Bay Area Lyft riders "soon," a company blog post said. Cars will have a Drive.ai staffer onboard to ensure safety, and Lyft noted that "any public pilot we deploy will be done in compliance with applicable regulatory requirements set by the DMV and California PUC [Public Utilities Commission]."
The partnership is a major win for Drive.ai, which flown under the radar for the most part. Founded by graduates of Stanford University's Artificial Intelligence Lab, it received a permit from the California DMV to test autonomous cars on public roads in April 2016.
The pilot program will include a small number of Lyft riders who will volunteer for autonomous rides, according to The Verge. When a ride is requested, Drive.ai software will determine whether the route is feasible. It's still unclear exactly how many cars will be deployed, or how many riders will be allowed to join the program.
Lyft also held back on a specific launch date, but in June it said the NuTonomy pilot in Boston would be its first use of self-driving cars, and stated that program would start before the end of this year. Given that, it seems likely the Bay Area program will start sometime after the one in Boston.
Either way, Lyft and Drive.ai won't be the first companies to put self-driving cars on the streets of San Francisco. General Motors's Cruise Automation subsidiary has been testing autonomous cars in the city for some time. It's even running a ride-sharing service, albeit only for employees. GM invested $500 million in Lyft last year, but when it comes to self-driving cars, Lyft clearly isn't satisfied with just one partner.