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Lyft is making research data on self-driving technology available to the public in a bid to accelerate the development of robotic cars, which is seen as critical to the ride-hailing giant’s future viability.
Billing it as the largest such trove of data made available to researchers and rivals, Lyft said July 23 the initiative includes more than 55,000 three-dimensional frames gleaned from cameras, lidar and radar installed on its research fleet. It also includes data from highly detailed maps created by Lyft’s test vehicles, which have been gathering data for nearly two years.
“One way to help accelerate innovation in this space is to have broader collaboration not just with industry, but with academia,” Luc Vincent, executive vice president of Lyft’s autonomous driving unit, said in an interview. “We don’t care about doing everything in secrecy; we care about accelerating the whole industry.”
Eliminating the human driver from a cab will cut costs by as much as 60%, raising the prospect of lower fares and fatter profits. Lyft has partnered with Google parent Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo autonomous car unit and leading auto software supplier Aptiv Plc, but may have less to lose by making its data public since its own self-driving research is believed to trail industry leaders.
The race to the driverless car has slowed considerably since an Uber test vehicle struck and killed a woman last year in Tempe, Ariz. Now tech and auto executives are saying they may have overestimated the arrival of the autonomous age and promise to focus on safety before turning the wheel over to robots.
Lyft contends that by releasing its driverless data, it can help push the creators of the technology to come up with solutions that solve the remaining challenges. “It’s quite possible that through this data we will accelerate another player that will eventually create something great,” Vincent said. “Then hopefully we will put that on the Lyft platform.”