Holden parent General Motors has revealed a new look at where it sees the future of daily commuting, announcing a US$500 million (AU$694m) investment into startup ride-sharing company Lyft – with a significant focus on driverless technology.
Although it has yet to arrive in Australia (a local debut is understood to be on the cards) Lyft has been operating in the US since 2012 as a direct rival to the well-known Uber service.
The heads of both companies have set driverless vehicles as a long-term goal, and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is reported to have confirmed that when Tesla launches its anticipated fully-autonomous vehicles, he will buy every example that he can get his hands on.
But, while Tesla founder Elon Musk could not be moved to offer more than a mysterious “I don’t think I should answer that” when questioned about a potential Uber partnership during an August 2015 press briefing, General Motors president Dan Ammann is all too happy to get on board with Lyft.
“We see the future of personal mobility as connected, seamless and autonomous,” GM president Dan Ammann said in a statement today.
“With GM and Lyft working together, we believe we can successfully implement this vision more rapidly.”
Lyft president John Zimmer added that this new partnership with GM will “build a better future by redefining traditional car ownership”.
Availability of autonomous vehicles represents a relatively long-term goal for the partnership, since legislation that would allow driverless cars onto public roads – outside of specially approved test programs and locations – is not yet in place.
But, as with the reported partnership between Ford and Google, GM’s partnership with Lyft will give the carmaker new avenues for evolving its driverless vehicle technology, effectively making guinea pigs of the service’s drivers (whose role in the vehicle may soon be no more involved than the button-pushing and door-opening lift operators of old).
In the meantime, GM’s half-billion-dollar investment gives it a seat on Lyft’s board of directors and makes it the preferred provider of short-term rental vehicles to Lyft drivers through rental hubs across the US.