Lyft to offer rides in self-driving cars for passengers in San Francisco area soon

The company has inked a partnership deal with Drive.ai, a tech startup, for this pilot project.

Lyft will soon offer free rides on self-driven cars for passengers in the Bay AreaJustin Sullivan/Getty Images

Selected Lyft users in the San Francisco Bay Area can now avail a free ride on a self-driving car, the next time they book a cab through the transportation network company's mobile app.

However, the service will be limited to certain parts of the city and not all Lyft cabs will be self-driven, reports Futurism.

It is still not clear as to when passengers can begin to get driven around in AI cars, the company simply said that it would happen soon. Also, passengers will have to opt into the service, reports the Verge. There is also no news on the total number of cars or participants in the program yet.

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Although Lyft has not developed an artificial intelligence (AI) for this pilot program but has inked a partnership deal with Drive.ai –a tech startup that builds AI and software that can turn cars into autonomous vehicles.

A statement posted on Drive.ai's website said, "This collaboration combines Drive.ai's deep learning-based self-driving solution with Lyft's extensive ridesharing network, furthering both companies' commitment to the development of safe, intelligent autonomous vehicles."

While the cars will be self-driving, Drive.ai noted that there will be a trained safety driver in the vehicle at all times for regulatory obligations, keeping in line with the local California laws.

When a ride is booked on the app, the AI will first check to see if it is feasible in terms of routes, some of which are pre-selected by the AI. Drive.ai is capable of operating at night as well as rainy conditions, Carol Reiley, co-founder and president of Drive.ai, told Verge.

Drive.ai received their autonomous vehicle testing permit in April 2016, but this is the company's first publically announced partnership with a ridesharing firm.

Earlier this year it was reported that Google's Waymo would team up with Lyft on self-driving car tech as well, but it is not clear if it will affect this pilot project in any way.

President and co-founder of Lyft, John Zimmer, released a 14-page essay on autonomous cars, car ownership, and how he envisions the concept of driving will go forward in the near future. In it, he said that a majority of Lyft's cars will be self-driven by 2021 and that car ownership by itself will slowly be phased out 2025.

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