SAN FRANCISCO: While not everyone is sold on the idea of driverless cars, their development and eventual arrival in the hands of consumers continues apace. And while driving enthusiasts may not want to relinquish their driving duties to a computer, it’s not hard to see the benefits of autonomous vehicles for taxi and ride-sharing operations. So it makes complete sense that ride-hailing company Lyft Inc. and self-driving software company Aptiv Plc will be showing off a fully-automated ride-hailing service at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas later this month.
And rather than the new “point-to-point” ride-hailing system that incorporates Lyft’s app with Aptiv’s automated driving platform just being on display at the show, it will actually be employed at CES to offer rides to attendees. In a statement about the event, the two companies claim that operating in such a complex and busy area as the Las Vegas strip will “accelerate the availability of automated driving platforms for commercial applications.”
Lyft isn’t the only ride-handling operation that sees autonomous vehicles as a vital part of its long-term viability. Global ride-sharing giant and US rival to Lyft, Uber Technologies Inc. has also made no secret it sees driverless vehicles as the future of its business model. However, to date, there’s no word of Uber making an appearance at CES this year.
Last year, Lyft unveiled plans to let developers of self-driving technology access its network of around one million rides daily to help further the development of autonomous vehicles. Aptiv was formed only in December last year, when Delphi Automotive Plc was split into two separate businesses: one supplying parts and the other developing driverless vehicle technology.
But before we get too excited about the prospect of ordering a driverless ride using a smartphone in the not-too-distant future, the vehicles operating at CES will still be staffed by a safety driver sitting in the front seat. Lyft is also opening its own autonomous-drive vehicle development facility in California called “Level 5,” which is the designation given to fully driverless vehicles that don’t need a driver at all. But it still seems as though Level 5 autonomy is still some way off.