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Exec: Most Lyft rides will be in au­ton­o­mous cars in 5 years

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Tom Kr­isher AP Auto Writer

DETROIT » Within five years, a ma­jor­ity of ride-hail­ing com­pany Lyft’s rides will be in self­driv­ing cars, the com­pany’s co­founder and pres­i­dent pre­dicted on Sun­day.

John Zim­mer also said that per­sonal car own­er­ship will come to an end be­cause au­ton­o­mous rides will be­come a cheaper way to travel than own­ing an au­to­mo­bile. He made the pre­dic­tions in an es­say on the fu­ture of trans­porta­tion in ur­ban ar­eas.

Tech­nol­ogy, auto and ride­hail­ing com­pa­nies are mov­ing quickly to­ward self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles. San Fran­cisco-based Lyft is test­ing au­ton­o­mous cars on the streets of San Fran­cisco and Phoenix in part­ner­ship with Gen­eral Mo­tors. Its main com­peti­tor Uber is start­ing to carry pas­sen­gers around Pitts­burgh in au­ton­o­mous cars with a hu­man backup driver.

Zim­mer said au­ton­o­mous cars will start out giv­ing rides at low speeds, around 25 miles per hour, in lim­ited ar­eas with a num­ber of re­stric­tions. The cars also won’t be able to op­er­ate in bad weather. “As tech­nol­ogy im­proves, these cars will be able to drive them­selves in more and more sit­u­a­tions,” Zim­mer said.

Au­ton­o­mous cars and ride­hail­ing will be es­sen­tial to help­ing cities han­dle an in­flux of residents in the com­ing years as the world be­comes more ur­ban­ized, he said. Once that hap­pens, there will be less need for park­ing, free­ing up space for parks and other uses, Zim­mer added.

Zim­mer’s five-year pre­dic­tion may be overly am­bi­tious be­cause

the tech­nol­ogy for cars that carry peo­ple on their own likely won’t be ready for at least a decade, said Ti­mothy Carone, a Notre Dame

pro­fes­sor and au­thor of “Fu­ture Au­to­ma­tion: Changes to Lives and to Busi­nesses.”

In­stead, Carone pre­dicts that op­er­a­tors in re­mote lo­ca­tions will take con­trol of cars if they run into sit­u­a­tions they can’t han­dle, sim­i­lar to how the mil­i­tary pi­lots drones.

“Cars in New York or driv­ing on su­per­high­ways can be au­ton­o­mous but be mon­i­tored by some­one at an Uber or Lyft cen­ter who can mon­i­tor many cars at once,” Carone said.

The prospect of au­ton­o­mous cars will change the busi­ness mod­els for both Uber and Lyft, which now let rid­ers use cell­phone apps to sum­mon in­de­pen­dent hu­man driv­ers with their own cars. It’s likely the ride-hail­ing com­pa­nies would own the self-driv­ing cars, which would cut their big­gest ex­pense, pay­ments to driv­ers.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Lyft pas­sen­ger Christina Shatzen gets into a car driven by Nancy Tcheou on Jan. 4, 2013, in San Fran­cisco. Within five years, a ma­jor­ity of ride-hail­ing com­pany Lyft’s rides will be in self-driv­ing cars, the com­pany’s co-founder and pres­i­dent pre­dicted.

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