In recent months, Lyft has unveiled a multi-pronged approach to self-driving cars. There’s a new division in the company that’s expected to focus entirely on developing self-driving tech for Lyft; a number of partnerships with tech giants and autonomous vehicle developers are aimed at bringing robotcars to Lyft’s ride-hailing network in the near-future. But Lyft says there’s one element of the network that isn’t expected to go away any time soon: humans.
Lyft alluded to the point last month in announcing the new self-driving tech division, when it said the company will “always operate a hybrid network, with rides from both human-driven and self-driving cars.”
On Monday, Lyft doubled down on its call to rely on mortal humans for the foreseeable future. Speaking with Recode, Lyft’s director of product, Taggart Matthiesen, said drivers have “always been a part of our family, they have been core to our service.”
Here’s more from Matthiesen’s conversation with Recode:
As far as I’m concerned, they will continue to be that. Over time, technology will give us the opportunity to provide additional services on our platform, whether that is a concierge service, whether that is an in-vehicle experience ... these are all things that we will slowly evolve and work with our drivers on.
Matthiesen’s view seems akin to what may happen to long-haul truck drivers if, and when, self-driving tech is implemented across the trucking industry: rather than drive the vehicle, they’ll serve as operators of sorts. Interestingly, Matthisen told Recode that Lyft has a council established that’s looking into ideas of how to incorporate human workers in robotcars of the future. That’s why, he told the outlet, Lyft’s network “may never be 100 percent” autonomous.
“If I need to go to the doctor’s office and my leg is in a cast and I can’t drive, we have a service for that,” he said. “If you get into the world of autonomous, we may need someone in that vehicle to help that person. There are things we’re doing beyond getting a passenger from point A to point B, additional services that we as a company can look at.”
Automakers have been working at a feverish rate over the last year to advance the development of self-driving cars, with some hoping to have fully-autonomous vehicles on the road by the beginning of next decade.
But the carmakers are well-aware that it’ll take decades for autonomous cars to overtake the market. Lyft’s comments are just the latest indication that we’ll remain necessary to driving functions for years to come.