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Lyft president predicts a driverless future, says Tesla has it all wrong

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2014

    In this file photo Katie Baranyuk gets out of a car driven by Dara Jenkins, a driver for the ride-sharing service Lyft, after getting a ride to downtown Seattle.

Lyft president John Zimmer predicts that his company’s ride-hailing fleet of cars will be mostly autonomous within five years, and that “private car ownership will all but end in major U.S. cities” by 2025.

Zimmer also called out fellow transportation disruptor Elon Musk, saying the Tesla CEO is mistaken in thinking the automotive revolution will hinge upon private ownership.

“Elon is right … but the transition to an autonomous future will not occur primarily through individually owned cars,” Zimmer wrote in a letter published early this morning.

Calling automobiles “a $9,000 ball and chain that gets dragged through our daily life,” Zimmer said the future of ride-hailing is all about new drivers who don’t want the “monthly car payments, searching for parking, buying fuel, and dealing with repairs” that accompany private car ownership.

“Ridesharing has already begun to empower many people to live without owning a car,” he said, noting that only 24 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. have driver’s licenses — down from 92 percent of that cohort in 1983, and 77 percent in 2014.

Lyft has seen significant growth in its ride-hailing service, claiming that its drivers gave 14.6 rides per month, on average, through August of this year.

But it continues to lag in public perception behind competitor Uber.

Lyft partnered earlier this year with General Motors, signing an agreement under which the automotive giant will invest $500 million in the ride-hailing company with a view to create an autonomous vehicle network.

Lyft has been testing self-driving cars on public roads in Phoenix, and has announced plans to begin autonomous ride-hailing some time next year.

Uber has already begun doing that, with autonomous pickup service already underway in Pittsburgh — albeit with Uber engineers sharing the ride with their customers.

Lyft has also made a deal that will give its drivers favorable terms to lease electric vehicles from GM — particularly its Chevrolet Volt hybrid and the coming Bolt EV plug-in vehicle — in order to conduct business using less gasoline.

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©2016 Los Angeles Times

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