Lyft and Waymo are working together on self-driving car technology, with a new deal first reported by the New York Times on Sunday. The deal has been confirmed by both parties, and will see Google’s former self-driving car unit work together with the ride-hailing company on efforts to introduce self-driving to the general population via fleet services.
Waymo just launched a self-driving technology public pilot in Arizona, where its Chrysler Pacifica minivans equipped with in-house developed self-driving tech will be picking up families on-demand, with applications open to anyone working in the city. Waymo’s service is limited to begin with, but bringing a partner like Lyft into the mix will likely help it build out the side of the business that requires demand modeling, efficient routing and more.
It’s an interesting partnership because it’s another piece of the puzzle in addition to Waymo’s existing tie-ups with automakers, including Chrysler, and a pending an agreement with Honda. Waymo is positioning itself as the technology partner on the autonomy side, an essential service provider but not necessarily a player interested in owning the whole stack. Lyft offers another piece of the puzzle, which could ultimately benefit Waymo’s existing automaker partners, and help it attract more, too.
Uber is also making similar partnerships, with an open program for OEs, the first of which is Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler. Lyft is different, however, in that it has not expressed any interest in making its own self-driving tech in-house, but has instead formed a previously announced partnership with GM, which is likely to result in a pilot of autonomous tech fleet deployment with GM-owned Cruise.
This is the latest move that indicates Waymo might be closer to commercializing its technology than many may have thought. The Alphabet-owned company is arguably the player in the space with the most experience, with nearly a decade of development work and actual driving experience with autonomous car tech.