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.

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