Lyft co-founder puts his money on driver­less cars as soon as 2026

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - STU ROBARTS

LYFT co-founder John Zim­mer has out­lined the ride-shar­ing com­pany’s vi­sion for the next 10 years and be­yond.

Lyft is Uber’s main com­pe­ti­tion in the ride-hail­ing mar­ket and had in March an­nounced a deal with Gen­eral Mo­tors to cre­ate a net­work of on-de­mand self­driv­ing cars.

Con­trary to trans­port pundists who say ro­bot cars are decades off, Zim­mer be­lieves the world is on the cusp of a trans­porta­tion revo­lu­tion, with the rise of ride-shar­ing and au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles set to change the phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ments of our cities.

Fol­low­ing its part­ner­ship with Gen­eral Mo­tors to launch an on-de­mand net­work of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles, Zim­mer says the ma­jor­ity of Lyft’s rides will be de­liv­ered by au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles within five years. In­deed, we’re al­ready see­ing the likes of Uber and NuTon­omy test­ing au­ton­o­mous ride-shar­ing ve­hi­cles pub­licly.

Zim­mer rea­sons that the avail­abil­ity of au­ton­o­mous ride-shar­ing ve­hi­cles below the cost of car own­er­ship will con­trib­ute to a move away from out­right own­er­ship, as it will be sim­pler and more af­ford­able to live with­out a car, while still pos­si­ble to have ac­cess to one when re­quired.

With that in mind, his sec­ond pre­dic­tion is that, by 2025, pri­vate car own­er­ship in U.S. cities will “all but end”.

Fi­nally, Zim­mer pre­dicts that this re­duc­tion in car own­er­ship will change the shape of our cities “more than we’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced in our life­times”, with less space and in­fra­struc­ture re­quired to ac­com­mo­date cars. For ex­am­ple, he ar­gues that there will be fewer cars sit­ting parked and empty and there­fore less need for park­ing spa­ces.

Zim­mer makes clear that he doesn’t think cars them­selves are the prob­lem, but how we use them, with the amount of time they re­main parked rather than in use be­ing in­cred­i­bly in­ef­fi­cient. He points out, though, that we no longer have to own many prod­ucts in or­der to en­joy their ben­e­fits, with DVD own­er­ship hav­ing been made un­nec­es­sary by stream­ing ser­vices like Net­flix and own­ing mu­sic by ser­vices like Spo­tify. In a sim­i­lar way, Zim­mer says that it is now pos­si­ble to of­fer “trans­porta­tion as a ser­vice”, with ride-shar­ing firms able to pro­vide all the ac­cess to cars that many peo­ple will need at a cost kept down in part by the even­tual lack of need for a driver.

While some­one is cur­rently re­quired to sit be­hind the wheel of self-driv­ing cars, Zim­mer be­lieves that 10 years from now au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles will not even re­quire a per­son in the driver’s seat to take con­trol in the event of a prob­lem.

Ul­ti­mately, he says th­ese changes will give us the op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate more peo­ple-fo­cused cities, cit­ing ar­gu­ments that no need for park­ing bays will al­low wider side­walk busi­nesses and parks on park­ing lots, with sub­se­quent im­pli­ca­tions for over­all qual­ity of life.

GRAPHIC: LYFT

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