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Lyft Tries Playing Catch Up, Launches Self-Driving Cars

Lyft is set to introduce self-driving cars to the roads of the San Francisco Bay Area, as other companies continue to press the gas on their autonomous vehicle endeavors.

The tech company announced Thursday it is partnering with Drive.ai, a firm founded by “former labmates” of Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab.

“As we work toward this not-so-distant future, Lyft will continue to partner with key players within the industry to build the world’s best transportation ecosystem, as well as safely introduce self-driving cars to our streets,” Lyft said in an official blog post. “Through a deep learning-first approach, Drive.ai creates artificial intelligence software for self-driving cars. This provides a fast, scalable, and cost-efficient approach to the development of this technology.”

Lyft is evidently not trying to be left in the dust in the driverless car race. It’s ride-sharing brother Uber, among dozens of other companies, have been participating in pilot tests of their respective technologies. (RELATED: Uber, Anheuser-Busch Use Self-Driving Truck To Deliver 45,000 Cans Of ‘America’)

While many of the corporations developing such technology are car or car part manufacturers, some aren’t.

Microsoft and Google, for example, have been delving into autonomous vehicle technology for some time. Apple, however, which was quite hush on its potential strategy, appears to be ditching its plan for creating a fully functional self-driving vehicle, but it is still exploring the technology that helps the vehicles operate. (RELATED: Google, Apple Are Teaming Up With Rental Car Companies For The Future Of Driving)

Uber, like Lyft, has been testing in San Francisco as well. Uber, however, has hit some bumps in the road. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) ordered Uber to cease testing operations in the state after multiple allegations of the autonomous cars running red lights surfaced. After some resistance, it agreed — although it only left temporarily.

Lyft’s announcement comes only a day after the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill Wednesday that loosens the reigns over companies’ ability to test self-driving car technology. The passage shows that the federal government is starting to cozy up to the prospective benefits, much like certain local governments.

Lyft President and co-founder John Zimmer is excited about the technology. He said last year that the advent of self-driving vehicles will be the end of private car ownership in major cities in just 10 years. Personally described as the “Third Transportation Revolution,” Zimmer claims that no one will feel compelled “to own a product to enjoy its benefits.” He supported his lofty contention with a comparison to other industries — Netflix and other streaming services essentially rendered DVD ownership antiquated, and Spotify and Pandora had a huge affect on the sales of CDs and MP3’s.

Overall, Lyft’s application of the technology on the roadways is a further sign of the company’s intent to join others in penetrating the market — a nascent industry that shows promise as the average consumer is willing to spend $4,900 more for a car that has driverless capabilities, according to a study.

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