Lately, Uber has been gobbling up all of the self-driving car attention with its launch of an experimental program in Pittsburgh. But Lyft wants you to know that it shouldn’t be counted out. In a manifesto published this morning on Medium, the rideshare company’s co-founder, John Zimmer, outlined his vision of the future.
At the top of Zimmer’s predictions (these really aren’t plans) is his belief that the majority of Lyft rides will be handled by autonomous cars within five years. He says that will involve a process of testing “a fleet of autonomous cars that completes rides under 40km per hour on flat, dry roads.” Gradually the maximum speed would increase (he predicts) until we are living in a world of self-driving cars that meet the standards of being piloted by a human. Zimmer expects a fully autonomous fleet to be in action within 10 years.
But just wait until 2025. That’s the year that Zimmer says private car ownership will be pretty much dead. His reasoning is the growing trend of young people not wanting to drive or seeing no reason to own a car.
In 1983, 92% of 20 to 24-year-olds had driver’s licenses. In 2014 it was just 77%. In 1983, 46% of 16-year-olds had licenses. Today it’s just 24%. All told, a millennial today is 30% less likely to buy a car than someone from the previous generation.
Aside from that chart-able trend, there’s little other reasoning given for the specific date of 2025.
Zimmer wraps up his manifesto with ruminations on how destructive individual car ownership has been for cities and how wasteful it is as a concept.
The treatise fails to explain why Lyft will be the company that accomplishes these extremely lofty goals. After saying that an autonomous network is a vital part of the future, Zimmer’s pitch for Lyft seems to boil down to “more consistency and availability than a patchwork of privately owned cars” and the fact that the public likes clean cars. And that Lyft has clean cars.
In August, The New York Times reported that Lyft was quietly seeking a buyout from Apple, Uber and others. According to the report, GM was the most serious contender and indeed the company has invested $US500 ($667) million into Lyft, so it does have the motivation.
Whether or not our roads will be filled with autonomous cars in five years is a big question. For Zimmer, whether or not Lyft will even exist by then is probably a more pressing concern.