Transportation as a Service: Lyft's self-driving car revolution

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Lyft couldn't let Tesla and Uber have all the self-driving fun.

So the ride-sharing company's president and cofounder, John Zimmer, has laid out a vision for the future, one that relies on self-driving cars to not only change how we get from one place to another, but also to affect how our cities are designed. Lofty goals.

In IT Blogwatch, we wait for the future to arrive.

So what is Zimmer's vision? John Ribeiro has the background:

According to Lyft's view of the future of transportation...Lyft rides in...robot cars will outstrip those...driven by human drivers within the next five years in the U.S.
More...people are coming to the conclusion...that it is simpler and more affordable not to own a car...Zimmer wrote in his forecast...which he described as the “The Third Transportation Revolution.”...The first two revolutions were ushered in by canals and the railroad, and the assembly line automobile, respectively.

So how will Lyft achieve this third revolution? The BBC outlines Zimmer's plans:

In the first phase in two years' time, self-driving rides will be available to Lyft users...along fixed routes...For the next stage, [Zimmer] predicts cars will navigate any a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour...The third stage, which...will kick in by about 2021, will see completely autonomous Lyft rides.

Lyft isn't the only company who believes autonomous car ride sharing is the future. Two others have notably made similar claims lately. Johana Bhuiyan has the details:

Lyft...longtime ride-hailing competitor Uber...just rolled out a self-driving pilot in Pittsburgh...Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk...wrote about a future where Tesla would operate a shared network in which owners could...[let] strangers use their self-driving cars in exchange for money.
While Zimmer gives Musk credit for seeing the importance of a shared network of cars, he...disputes Musk’s vision...because individual car owners won’t want to rent their cars to strangers.

So what does Zimmer's vision mean for the future of car ownership. We'll let Zimmer explain in his own words:

With Netflix and streaming services, DVD ownership became obsolete. Spotify...made it unnecessary to own CDs and MP3s. Eventually, we’ll look at owning a car...the same way...A full shift to “Transportation as a Service” is finally possible.
The shift to autonomous cars will...transform transportation into the ultimate subscription service...Don’t drive very often? Use a pay-as-you-go plan...Take a road trip every weekend? Buy the unlimited mileage plan. Going out every Saturday? Get the premium package.

But what about Lyft drivers? Alexandra Burlacu tells us they will still be necessary, for a little while:

Back in January...Lyft teamed up with General Motors to work on self-driving cars...Zimmer says...we should have autonomous vehicles on the road within five years. After that, self-driving cars and cars with human drivers will coexist...for a while until autonomous vehicles eventually replace human-operated cars. By 2025, Lyft will get rid of its human drivers.

But will people really stop buying cars? Zimmer thinks so. And he believes reduced car ownership will change how cities are designed. Marcy Kreiter lays it out for us:

Zimmer noted car ownership costs the average American $9,000 a year, and...millennials are 30 percent less likely to buy a car than their elders.
As the level of car ownership goes down, the physical environment of cities will change..."We’ll have the chance to redesign our...cities...around people, not vehicles,” Zimmer said.

So are people on board? Melody Mendez is all for it:

Interesting prediction from the founder of #Lyft..Would you ditch your car? (I can't wait!)
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