Lyft, Uber and Ford Pursue Autonomous Car Technology
Thanks to new technological advances, self-driving cars are gaining more of a presence in modern society. Lyft’s co-founder and president predicted that within five years a majority of Lyft’s peer-to-peer ride sharing will be done in self-driving cars. The company’s CEO also stated that personal ownership of an automobile will dwindle because the autonomous rides will serve as a cheaper and more convenient option.
He made this prediction in an essay on the future of transportation. These bold and ambitious predictions shed light on the advancements that will shape how humans travel in the future. During the week of Sept. 18, Lyft teamed up with General Motors in order to test drive their autonomous cars on the streets of San Francisco and Phoenix. There will be quite a few restrictions on where and when these new self-driving cars can operate. According to Lyft’s CEO, the rides will start out at low speeds and in limited areas. They will not operate in bad weather until the technology improves.
Lyft’s top competitor, Uber, rolled out a set of autonomous cars in Pittsburgh the same week as Lyft’s test drives. Their self-driving cars will feature a back-up driver in them while they are testing the technology out on the streets. Uber’s self-driving car is equipped with what is called a Lidar unit, allowing a 360 degree view of its surroundings.
In a statement made by Uber, they said that self-driving Uber cars have the potential to improve society by “reducing the number of traffic accidents, which today kill 1.3 million people a year; freeing up the 20 percent of space in cities currently used to park the world’s billion plus cars; and cutting congestion, which wastes trillions of hours every year.”
The more striking advancement in the world of autonomous cars is Ford Motors’ plan to create a fully autonomous car that will not feature a steering wheel, gas pedal or brakes. Unlike autonomous cars that are currently being tested, Ford Motors’ cars will not have a human back-up driver. The existing prototypes are far from ready and are said to be a little zany due to the bulky sensors atop the roof. A series of Ford Fusion Hybrids have been modified and are the vehicle of choice for testing. They have mounted sensors on the roof, while their advanced software is under development. The company plans to have their fleet of autonomous cars on the road by 2021. The purpose of these self-driving cars will not be for personal purchase at first, but aimed more towards ride sharing services such as Lyft and Uber. Ford Motors seems to have the same prediction as Lyft, in that autonomous ride sharing might become more affordable and thus more prominent than self-owned vehicles.