Lyft’s self-driving taxis have made 5,000 trips for paying riders in Las Vegas

Pretty much every ridesharing firm and automaker under the sun now has a crack team of engineers working on driverless-car technology aimed at transforming the way we get around.

San Francisco-based Lyft is no exception. While the ridesharing outfit still mostly uses human drivers for its people-carrying service, it has also been inking partnerships with various companies in a bid to drive its robot-taxi ambitions toward its stated aim of making cities “safer, greener, and more efficient.”

One such project kicked off in Las Vegas, Nevada at the start of the year, with Lyft claiming it to be the first-ever commercial robot taxi service.

Working with vehicle technology firm Aptiv, Lyft completed 400 rides in the space of just a few days using its BMW-made autonomous cars. Digital Trends had the opportunity to jump inside one for our own ride.

Happy with customer responses, Lyft decided to expand the service to 30 self-driving cars starting in May, offering 20 pick-up and drop-off points around the city.

The company announced this week that it’s now completed 5,000 self-driving rides, transporting paying Lyft customers to destinations along the Strip and beyond.

Riders can choose

Riders in Vegas can opt in to using the driverless service by tapping the option when prompted in the Lyft app. Then, when you request a ride, the service will offer a driverless car if one is available nearby. At this point you have another opportunity to accept or decline the autonomous vehicle. Declining will connect you to a human driver, and the trip will cost the same whatever choice you make.

According to Lyft’s own data, 96 percent of passengers said they intend to take more rides in its robot taxis, while 20 percent have already made several trips in them.

The average passenger rating for the experience currently stands at 4.96 out of 5 stars, suggesting the vehicles’ sensors, cameras, and other autonomous equipment is working exactly as it should.

There is, to be clear, a safety driver on board to monitor the car’s performance and answer any questions riders might have about the autonomous technology that’s taking them along the street.

Lyft doesn’t say whether there have been any technology failures during any of the rides, but says customers have so far felt “safe and at ease” during their trips.

Commenting on the milestone, Lyft chief strategy officer Raj Kapoor said his company is “committed to redefining our cities around people instead of cars,” with its autonomous technology central to achieving that goal.

Lyft isn’t the only outfit where regular folks are able to take rides in self-driving cars. Waymo, for example, has been testing its technology with the folks of Phoenix, Arizona since last year, offering rides in its autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

The next step for Lyft will be to reach the point where it’s ready to increase the number of driverless cars it’s using, and to expand the number of locations where the vehicles operate. Regulators will have to be happy to green light such a move, too.

The autonomous-vehicle industry was rocked earlier this year when a self-driving car operated by Uber knocked down and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. While companies are continuing to develop their technology, both they and state regulators are now moving ahead with a more considered approach in an effort to maximize safety.

Emerging Tech

Leafy greens are grown by machines at new, automated Silicon Valley farm

Farming hasn't changed too much for hundreds of years. Now a new startup called Iron Ox has opened its first automated hydroponics farm, producing a variety of leafy greens tended by machines.
Cars

Lyft has a new fixed-price subscription plan for frequent passengers

Lyft wants you to save money by using rideshare services instead of owning a car. The new Lyft All-Access Plan monthly rideshare trip subscription includes 30 rides a month with a small discount for additional trips.
Cars

Heads up, George Jetson: Terrafugia starts taking orders for its flying car

The Terrafugia Transition flying car will go on sale next year, roughly a decade after the first prototype rolled out of its hangar. Terrafugia promises improvements, including a hybrid powertrain, to make up for the long wait.
Outdoors

Sleep comfortably under the stars in one of the best tents

An essential piece of gear whether you're camping in your backyard or on a multi-day backpacking trip, here are our picks of the best tents currently on the market from car camping varieties to the best three-person option.
Cars

At 503 mph, Turbinator II is the world’s fastest wheel-driven vehicle

The Turbinator II is a four-wheel drive streamliner powered by a 5,000-horsepower helicopter engine, and it just achieved 503.332 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats. That's an unofficial record for a wheel-driven car.
Cars

Could the next Mazda3 boast a fuel-saving breakthrough in engine tech?

Mazda released a teaser video that likely previews the next Mazda3. Expected to make its global debut at the L.A. auto show, the next 3 will wear a more curvaceous design and offer one of the most advanced engines in the automotive…
Product Review

Audi's new A8 is so sophisticated and serene, it practically deletes potholes

The 2019 Audi A8’s outline looks promising: Level 3 autonomous driving capability, haptic-feedback infotainment screens, rear-wheel steering, Matrix LED headlights and OLED taillights, plus a predictive suspension.
Cars

Workhorse takes on diesel with lighter, cheaper NGEN-1000 electric delivery van

Ohio-based Workhorse Group claims its new NGEN-1000 electric delivery van costs the same as a conventional diesel van and can haul a similar amount of cargo. A lower curb weight makes this possible.
Cars

Forget transponders with Peasy’s nationwide pay-as-you-go toll service

Verra Mobility launched Peasy, a consumer highway and bridge toll payment service. Designed to be less hassle than managing traditional transponder or toll tag accounts, Peasy pays tolls as they are levied across most of the U.S.
Cars

Just 10 people will get to put this limited-edition Audi R8 in their garages

The 2018 Audi R8 V10 Plus Competition makes use of Audi's motor sports experience to turn up the performance dial. Decreased weight and increased aerodynamic downforce make this R8 a track monster.
Cars

Porsche’s all-electric Taycan sedan will cost less than a Panamera

Porsche's Mission E concept won't change much as it transitions to a production model named Taycan that's scheduled to arrive in 2019. That means the sedan will keep the sleek design and its 800-volt charging system.
Cars

Bored with stock? The best tuner cars are begging to be modified

Modification has been around almost as long as the automobile itself. Here are 25 of the best tuner cars you can find, ranging from American muscle standouts to Japanese drift cars.
Cars

Tesla keeps promise with more affordable Model 3 with midrange battery pack

Tesla is keeping its promise of making the Model 3 gradually more affordable. The company released a new variant of the car with a mid-range, 260-mile battery option that's priced under the $50,000 mark.
Cars

The snake escapes: Ford’s 700-hp Mustang GT500 slithers online ahead of schedule

The Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 will return in 2019 with over 700 horsepower, Ford confirmed at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show. The GT500 will be the most powerful Ford production car ever.