Lyft teams with Google’s Waymo for self-driving cars

Image: Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for Lyft

The ride-hailing app wars just took another dramatic turn with the announcement that Google’s Waymo self-driving car team will be teaming up with Lyft, Uber’s chief rival.

This could change everything.

In a deal that was confirmed by both Waymo and Lyft in a report from The New York Times, the two companies will work together on autonomous vehicle “pilot projects and product development efforts.”

“Waymo holds todays best self-driving technology, and collaborating with them will accelerate our shared vision of improving lives with the worlds best transportation,” a Lyft spokeswoman told the Times in a statement on Sunday.

“Waymo holds todays best self-driving technology, and collaborating with them will accelerate our shared vision.” Lyft

The deal could significantly turn the tide for the ride-hailing app business as Uber, which is engaged in its own autonomous vehicle efforts, is the current ride-hailing app leader. But with the added heft of Google-owned Waymo (and, presumably, the global mapping information, consumer data, and massive cash war chest of its parent company), Lyft’s chances versus Uber in the coming autonomous vehicle wars just got a lot better.

In fact, with this partnership, some might even now call Lyft the favorite to win the early rounds of the nascent autonomous ride-hailing market competition.

Just last year, Lyft co-founder John Zimmer claimed that the majority of Lyft vehicles would be autonomous within five years. Although some scoffed at the seemingly ambitious predication at the time, it could be that Zimmer knew this deal, or something like it, was in the making for Lyft when he offered that bold forecast.

An additional wrinkle in the story for Uber is the fact that it’s currently locked in a lawsuit brought against it by Waymo over alleged stolen trade secrets. But however that lawsuit shakes out, Waymo’s partnership with Lyft is just another in a long string of bad news for Uber in recent months. l

Further details regarding the specifics of the collaboration between Waymo and Lyft haven’t been revealed, but Waymo (formerly known as the Google self-driving car project) did offer comment via a spokesperson quoted in the report, saying, “Lyft’s vision and commitment to improving the way cities move will help Waymos self-driving technology reach more people, in more places.”

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