On the one hand Lyft passengers have logged more than 100,000 rides in Aptiv’s self-driving cars the headline in Venture Beat reads. The problem is these are not truly self-driving. There are full controls and a driver. True, they do negotiate streets on their own using a combination of lidar, cameras and radars, but this is why this industry needs to not just publish standards they need to adopt them.
It’s been roughly two years since Lyft partnered with Dublin, Ireland-based Aptiv (formerly Delphi) to launch a fleet of autonomous vehicles on the former’s ride-sharing network. A product of Aptiv’s mobility and services group, the vehicles became available to the Las Vegas public beginning May 2018 on an opt-in basis. They hit 5,000 rides in August 2018 — in a matter of months. By May 2019, Aptiv’s self-driving BMW 5 series cars equipped with lidar sensors, cameras, radars, and cameras had given 50,000 Lyft passenger rides. (That last number was up from 25,000 in December 2018.)
But that’s small potatoes compared with the duo’s latest milestone. Today, Lyft and Aptiv announced that they’ve passed 100,000 driverless rides and that 98% of customers who’ve taken rides have left a five-star rating. Furthermore, the companies reaffirmed that the cars now service over 3,400 destinations in the Las Vegas area, including restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues, and other high-traffic locations, like the Las Vegas Convention Center and McCarran International Airport.
The companies readily concede that the program isn’t fully autonomous just yet. Safety drivers are behind the wheel during every trip, and vehicles are required to be in manual mode in parking lots and hotel pick-up areas. But Lyft sees it as a valuable experiment in the nascent driverless robo-taxi segment.
“In the early days of Lyft, riders taught us important things, like how hospitality plays a role in their decision to ride again or that there’s a ‘sweet spot’ of the amount of time people want to wait for their ride,” wrote Lyft in a blog post. “In the same way, this first generation of self-driving riders [is] teaching us about how they view this technology — and what we can do to continue to improve their experiences. Transportation serves all of us, and we are all invested in the next step of its evolution. We’re all on this journey together, and we can’t wait to hear what riders think about the next 100,000 rides.”
Aptiv characterized the multi-year collaboration as a “blueprint” for how to bring self-driving vehicles to market. To this end, it highlighted its work with local governments and transit agencies — including Clark County, the City of Las Vegas, and the Regional Transportation Commission. It also noted that its Command Center — which furnishes its development team with data like vehicle health and diagnostics, vehicle ride status, and popular ride times and locations — enables it to keep vehicles on the road while serving passengers, complementing its 130,000-square-foot garage with full-calibration lab spaces and car chargers.
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