Lyft driving into Canada in first international foray
The ride-hailing company Lyft Inc, a major rival to Uber Technologies Inc in the United States, is moving to gain ground internationally.
Lyft announced on Monday that it planned to begin operating in Toronto, its first international location, in time for the holiday season.
The company, which has benefited from several scandals at Uber, is trying to raise the stakes in its rivalry with its much larger competitor.
Lyft has begun exploring an initial public offering in 2018, and is in the process of raising $1 billion in financing, getting support from Alphabet Inc’s venture investment arm, CapitalG, along the way.
Lyft has also been jockeying for space in the self-driving car sector, agreeing in September to a partnership with Ford Motor Co to develop autonomous-vehicle designs and technology, and opening a research facility in Palo Alto, California.
The company’s expansion into Canada highlights its ambitions to challenge Uber farther afield.
“We have had our sights set on international expansion for months, and the Canadian market is an obvious fit for Lyft’s culture, values and the service that we provide,” Logan Green, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement.
“Lyft will start its service in Toronto next month,’’ he added.
Lyft has high hopes for the Toronto market. John Zimmer, the company’s president and co-founder, told the Toronto Star that he expected the Canadian city to eventually become one of Lyft’s five largest markets.
To entice drivers, Lyft is offering a 25% bonus for the first 3,000 drivers who are approved and who complete 20 rides a week during the company’s first three months of operation in Toronto.
In addition to Toronto, Lyft plans to operate in the city’s suburbs and in nearby Hamilton, Ontario.
The company faces a variety of regulations as it prepares to do business in the area, which has a population of more than seven million people.
Mississauga, the largest of Toronto’s suburbs and home to the area’s international airport, has let Uber operate only on a trial basis since March and plans to review its rules in 2019.
Uber, which began operating in Toronto five years ago, has encountered resistance in Canada. Taxi drivers have protested against the company for not following
the same rules as the taxi industry. At one point, Toronto officials sought to ban Uber, but Ontario’s Superior Court refused that request in 2015.
“Uber has upended the taxi industry in Toronto since its arrival and has achieved a great deal of popularity and commercial success, but it nevertheless remains controversial and contentious,” said Shauna
Brail, the director of the urban studies program at the University of Toronto.
Brail said it was unclear what effect Lyft’s entry into the market would have. But she noted that the city was growing in importance as a centre for research into artificial intelligence, an important technology in the self-driving cars that Lyft and others are working to develop.
Uber opened a research centre in Toronto this year, and Google has established a branch of its AI research centre in the city.
General Motors Co announced last year that it would add 700 software engineers to offices in the Toronto area whose work would include developing autonomous cars.
A van on a pole marks a Lyft driver hub in San Francisco.