It was reported back in January that General Motors, one of the world’s biggest automobile manufacturers, was investing $500 million in ride-hailing company Lyft as part of a major partnership to create an “integrated network of on-demand autonomous vehicles in the US.” According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, these self-driving cabs will hit the streets in a testing phase next year.
The news follows GM’s acquisition of Cruise Automation, an autonomous car startup it purchased in March. "We will want to vet the autonomous tech between Cruise, GM, and ourselves and slowly introduce this into markets," said Lyft product director Taggart Matthiesen.
The publication indicates that the autonomous fleet will be made up of low-cost, long-distance electric Chevy Bolts that will be fitted with Cruise Automation's self-driving technology. The exact city where the trial will take place hasn’t been revealed.
Lyft is already working on a prototype app that gives users the option of selecting an autonomous vehicle when ordering a ride. As a way of easing regulatory concerns, the cars will initially come with a driver in the front seat who can take over should something go wrong. But the WSJ reports that the driver “is eventually expected to be obsolete.”
Lyft rival Uber is also reported to be expanding its research into an on-demand self-driving service. The company announced that it was partnering with the University of Arizona last year to develop mapping and optics technologies.
Google is another company increasing its focus on automated vehicles. The tech giant announced a deal earlier this week with Fiat Chrysler that will see it integrate its self-driving system into 100 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.