Skip to main content

Lyft’s self-driving car-testing program is racking up the miles

Lyft is planning a significant expansion of its autonomous car testing program. The company is opening a new testing facility, adding vehicles to its fleet, and racking up more test miles. Like rival Uber, Lyft believes self-driving cars are the future of ridesharing.

Lyft’s self-driving cars are now driving four times as many miles per quarter in autonomous mode as they were six months ago, Luc Vincent, Lyft’s executive vice president of autonomous driving, wrote in a blog post. The company currently gives rides in test vehicles to employees, and the number of routes where these rides are available has tripled in the past year, Vincent wrote.

Lyft is opening a dedicated testing facility for self-driving cars in East Palo Alto, California. This will include intersections, merges, traffic lights, and other road configurations, Vincent wrote. Lyft will also continue testing at GoMentum Station, a third-party autonomous-car testing facility at a former military base in Concord, California, Vincent wrote. Closed courses allow engineers to test cars in scenarios that would be too dangerous for public roads, or simply may not happen in everyday driving.

In addition to expanding mileage and testing locations, Lyft is growing its fleet of vehicles. The company will soon take delivery of an unspecified number of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans, Vincent wrote. A minivan offers greater flexibility, and Lyft wanted hybrid vehicles, according to Vincent. The Pacifica is actually a plug-in hybrid, so it can be plugged into an external charging station like an all-electric car. That allows for a bigger battery pack, which in turn allows for more zero-emission electric running.

Waymo already uses the Pacifica Hybrid for its Waymo One ridesharing service in Phoenix, Arizona, and it’s easy to see why. In addition to lower emissions and less money spent on fuel, a hybrid’s battery pack provides a crucial source of electricity to run the sensors and computers that make autonomous driving possible. That’s why most companies currently developing autonomous-driving tech use hybrids, plug-in hybrids, or all-electric cars as test vehicles.

The self-driving cars Lyft is developing in-house are only accessible to employees right now, but you can still hail an autonomous Lyft ride. In Las Vegas, the company is partnering with Aptiv to give rides to the public in test vehicles. The cars belong to Aptiv and use that company’s tech, but riders can hail them using the Lyft app.

Editors' Recommendations

Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
From Paris to NYC, Mobileye will bring self-driving cars to metropolises
A self-driving vehicle from Mobileye's autonomous test fleet navigates the streets of Detroit. (Credit: Mobileye, an Intel Company)

A Tesla in Autopilot mode can ply the highways of Northern California without issue, but when it comes to congested cities packed with erratic vehicle traffic, bikes, and pedestrians, cameras don’t always cut it. Or they didn’t, anyway. After years of testing, Intel-owned Mobileye intends to embrace the madness of the metropolis by rolling out self-driving cars in cities across the world.

On Monday, the first day of CES 2021, the company announced that Tokyo, Shanghai, Paris, Detroit, and New York City will all see fleets of Mobileye-powered vehicles rolled out in early 2021, if all goes well (regulatory issues are still being ironed out in NYC).

Read more
Waymo ditches the term ‘self-driving’ in apparent dig at Tesla
waymo takes its self driving cars to florida for testing in heavy rain

Autonomous car company Waymo says it will stop using the term “self-driving” in a move that many will see as a swipe at Tesla.

Alphabet-owned Waymo said that starting this year it will refer to its driving technology as “fully autonomous.”

Read more
To reach level 4 autonomy, these self-driving cars head to winter boot camp
Sensible 4 winter driving

Is there a more magical seasonal sight than snowflakes falling on banks of snow under a white sky, the only bursts of color to break up the merry scene being a jolly holly bush or a Christmas robin hopping across the top of a frozen fence? Maybe not if you’re a human. If you’re a self-driving car, on the other hand, that scene is pretty darn terrifying.

Autonomous vehicles are increasingly great at parsing street scenes and safely navigating according to either camera images or bounced Lidar inputs. Unfortunately, snow is an issue for both cameras and laser scanners due to noise (read: falling snow) blocking the sensors, and white-out conditions preventing the camera from seeing surroundings properly.

Read more