Ride hailing firm Lyft and Canadian motor vehicle parts company Magna International have signed a deal to develop driverless car technology. Magna will invest equity in Lyft of about $200 million. The partnership will involve jointly funding and designing autonomous car systems making use of the extensive automotive engineering as well as research & development expertise that Magna possesses.
Lyft will be at the forefront of designing driverless car software and this will be done at its Palo Alto, California-based Level 5 Engineering Center. Engineers from Magna will manage the production as well as the integration of technology.
“Magna is going to take the lead on manufacturing. They are going to manufacture the self-driving system and they are going to be upfitting vehicles from a number of OEMs to be able to operate on the Lyft network,” said the co-founder and chief executive officer of Lyft, Logan Green.
Lyft’s autonomous car development efforts started last year making the ride hailing firm a newcomer compared to the likes of rival Uber and the self-driving car unit of Google, Waymo. But a partnership with a big auto parts supplier with a global network who also produces complete vehicles will hasten the pace of development for Lyft.
This comes at a time when Waymo which is widely regarded as the leader in the space makes preparations of unveiling robot taxis in Phoenix, Arizona. Recently the chief executive officer of Waymo, John Krafcik, indicated that the autonomous car unit of Google would soon be giving those on the Early Riders program free rides on cars that are fully driverless.
Democratization of tech
The alliance between Lyft and Magna is expected to democratize autonomous car technology since the latter will be in a position to supply the tech to other automakers just as it has done with parts of traditional motor vehicles. According to Green the goal of the alliance is to ensure that the autonomous vehicle technology is not monopolized by a few firms. Rather they want all original equipment manufacturers to have access to the technology and hopefully have the vehicles join the Lyft network. However it will not be mandatory for firms to use the proprietary system in order to be accepted into the rideshare network of Lyft as even rival technologies will be accepted.
Despite the new alliance Lyft will continue the development of autonomous car technology in-house while operating pilot programs with the autonomous vehicles from other companies such as General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Ford and Waymo.