Lyft taps Waymo for driverless robo-taxi rides in Phoenix

Lyft customers in Phoenix, Arizona, will soon be able to request a ride in a self-driving car.

The robo-taxi service has come out of Lyft’s partnership with Waymo, which itself has been offering paying passengers rides in its driverless cars — also in Phoenix — since the end of last year with its Waymo One service.

Over the next few months, Lyft will use 10 autonomous Waymo vehicles as part of its regular ridesharing service in Phoenix, with the possibility of adding more over time.

Lyft riders will be able to select one of Waymo’s self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans directly from the Lyft app, though their expected popularity and limited number mean that such a vehicle might not always be immediately available.

Waymo, which was spun out of Google’s self-driving program in 2016, said on Tuesday that with its own service, it’s now giving autonomous rides to around 1,000 a people a day, with folks in Phoenix using them “to commute to and from work, bring their kids to school, get to the grocery store, and even to avoid parking at trailheads before a big run.”

Waymo said that its work with Lyft should lead to an improved robo-taxi experience as it’ll be getting extra feedback from more riders. For Lyft, working with Waymo shows it’s serious about its plan to incorporate autonomous technology into its ridesharing service. It’s also an attempt to mark it out from Uber, which has been struggling with the development of its own autonomous vehicles following a fatal accident in 2018.

Lyft began its partnership with Waymo in 2017 with a view to launching precisely this kind of service. But it’s not the first time Lyft has offered rides in self-driving cars. At the start of 2018, the company teamed up with vehicle technology firm Aptiv in Las Vegas to launch what it claimed to be the first-ever commercial robo-taxi service.

In just a few days, Lyft completed 400 rides using its BMW-made autonomous cars. Digital Trends had an opportunity to take a trip in one.

Last May, the company expanded the Las Vegas service to 30 self-driving cars, and by January 2019 the vehicles had completed 30,000 autonomous rides, transporting paying Lyft customers to destinations around the city.

At the current time, Lyft’s autonomous taxi services include a human backup driver to ensure rides go smoothly, and also to deal with inquiries from riders.

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