Lyft, a Transportation network company, announced that it is now launching their own version of self driving car division, which is setting it up to further compete with their ride-hailing rival, Uber.
Lyft said that it would now be hiring hundreds of engineers for the self-driving division, which would be housed in a new San Francisco office.
“We want to take a proactive role into pushing the industry into a more open environment,” Raj Kapoor, the chief strategy officer for Lyft, told reporters on Thursday at an event, as per the Wall Street Journal. “The only way to do that is to go deeper and to develop these technologies.”
Lyft had previously started the development of the autonomous vehicle space but it had been doing so via different partnerships with companies, such as Waymo, that is a Google subsidiary, and General Motors, which had been developing its own technology in the space.
This would be Lyft’s newest division, and it marks a change in the company’s strategy, as it shifts from various partnerships to its own advancement of self-driving car technology. It also comes at a time when their chief rival, Uber is beset with huge public relations issues.
But Lyft says that it is a new initiative and would not affect its partnerships.
“In the years ahead, we will continue to bring the world’s leading automotive and technology companies onto this single platform to serve a nationwide passenger network. And together, we will continue to drive toward a single, shared objective: to build the world’s best transportation ecosystem,” said Luc Vincent, Lyft’s vice president of engineering.
Vincent also noted that the division would “build technology in collaboration with partners.”
The company’s move to jump into the autonomous vehicle sphere is relatively late compared with Waymo, Uber, Tesla and various others that have spent more time in developing the technology; however, Lyft says it is least worried about catching up.
“While these players started a long time ago, the technology has evolved since then,” Vincent further said. “We can build on the current technology and move faster.”
The move comes as Uber faces fallout from their recent revelations and missteps, including the news that Uber has covered up a massive data breach last year.
One former employee at the company noted, that while Uber is still in a dominant position, the company was still wary of potentially losing out on their engineering talent who might not want to get associated with former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Kalanick had stepped down as the CEO last month amid the reports of a toxic culture at Uber.
Uber’s very own self-driving car division is also the subject of a lawsuit from Waymo, which accuses the company of stealing its trade secrets.
Lyft’s announcement also comes just days after the House Commerce consumer protection subcommittee has advanced the legislation on self-driving cars that would ease the restrictions in the space. If passed, the automakers will be able to manufacture 100,000 autonomous vehicles a year.