Lyft co-founder lays his vision on autonomous cars, subscription-based model and more

By Jos
Sep 19, 2016
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  1. Last week Uber showed off its modified, self-driving Ford Fusions and put four of them into active duty for a small group of loyal Uber Pittsburgh users. Not wanting to be left behind, Lyft president and cofounder John Zimmer has laid out its ambitious vision for the future of autonomous vehicles and what it means for the ride hailing company.

    According to Zimmer, a majority of Lyft’s rides will be autonomous vehicles within just five years, and that by 2025, “private car ownership will all but end in major US cities.” That’s certainly a bold prediction considering all the things at play beyond the technology -- legislation, infrastructure, corporate interests, consumer habits, to name a few.

    But Zimmer believes the time has come to push for a revolution in public transportation, one that can potentially revolutionize our cities and our lives.

    “You have cities that are mistakenly designed for cars, that are majority paved. I think about things in terms of occupancy,” Zimmer explained. “If you think about ground transportation, 96 percent of the time the car is parked, that’s like a horrible, horrible business. American spend more money on cars than they do on food, and the thing is parked 96 percent of the time. It takes up a large amount of city infrastructure.”

    Contrary to Elon Musk’s view where autonomous car owners generate income from renting their vehicles, Zimmer says the future is in centrally managed fleet networks. The reasoning comes down to consistency and quality of experience, which is easier to guarantee when a fleet is centrally managed.

    In Lyft’s view of the future you’d sign up for transportation services much in the way yo do for streaming services like Spotify or Netflix. Don’t drive very often? Use a pay-as-you-go plan for a few cents every mile you ride. Take a road trip every weekend? Buy the unlimited mileage plan. Going out every Saturday? Get the premium package with upgraded vehicles.

    Zimmer believes that once car ownership goes down we will see countless valuable acres of urban roads and parking lots reclaimed in the form of parks and pedestrian zones.

    Lyft is trailing behind Uber in terms of users and resources to make all this happen. The company did secure a $500 million investment from General Motors in January and is working with the automaker to integrate self-driving technologies into its ride-hailing service.

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  2. We definitely need some geniuses to look at modern transport. As he says, vehicles are expensive, don't last long and spend most of their time idle. Yet, public transit falls far, far short of being sufficient. The cost of the infrastructure for all these vehicles is insane as well. The city spreads out into suburbia, then the suburbanites all want huge interchanges so they can get to work faster.
    Canada has a very low population density as well, combined with a large landmass and a brutal winter so many solutions that work well in other places, like trains in Japan or the small motorbikes (like SE Asia) just don't work here, at least as currently conceived.
    MilwaukeeMike likes this.
  3. Bill Stickers

    Bill Stickers TS Rookie

    The most insane element to me is that we're all trying to get to work for 9am. That is plain dumb. Why not incentivise people to arrive at work at different times from say 8 through to 10. Make core work hours from 10-4 where everyone needs to be on deck.
    MilwaukeeMike likes this.
  4. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,889   +1,223

    or work from home, or carpool. I know what you mean... there are cars filling the road and each person is surrounded by a TON of empty space taken up by seats with no one in them and an empty trunk. Think how many more people could travel on teh same road if we only used motorcycles or something else that was far more people-dense (like a bus). But that would sacrifice safety - and that's never popular.

    With nonsensical terrible arguments like this he should be running for office. How much something is used is not a measure of it's usefulness (wait - what?). My mouth only eats 5% of the day - but it's still pretty important. I TALK on my phone like .01% of the time I use it, but I would never buy a device that didn't have a 'phone' app. Here I am at work not using my home broadband, but I wouldn't cancel that either. This guy is using the wrong measuring stick.

    No you won't... when fewer people park, the parking lots will start charging less to attract customers and that will encourage people to drive their own cars again. This is why adding lanes to the freeways doesn't decrease traffic... when extra lanes decrease traffic people who haven't been driving start driving again.

    if anything will decrease traffic in the future, it's autonomous cars driving bumper to bumper and the trend of people living downtown instead of in the burbs.

    Also - we won't all be using autonomous cars in 10 years. This guy is thinking about technological capabilities - not people's behavior. Many people won't WANT a self-driving car. They won't trust them, or maybe they just like to drive. I believe in the technology, but I also understand that version 2.0 will be far better than version 1.0 - and I'll just wait for that.

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