Waymo, Lyft team up on self-driving cars

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Waymo and Lyft announced Sunday that they're working together to launch self-driving car pilots.

WASHINGTON — Two of Silicon Valley’s biggest transportation players are partnering to make self-driving cars a reality.

Waymo and Lyft announced Sunday that they’re working together to launch self-driving car pilots. The partnership is the latest indicator that fully autonomous vehicles will soon be common on some U.S. streets. The news was first reported by the New York Times.

Both Waymo and Lyft confirmed the news to CNN. But the companies revealed few details about the arrangement.

Lyft customers in Phoenix could be first to experience the partnership. Waymo announced in April a program to give Phoenix residents rides in its self-driving minivans. Waymo is also adding 500 minivans, a significant scaling up of its fleet.

The Waymo-Lyft partnership is nonexclusive, meaning both parties are free to work with other companies.

Waymo is widely seen as the global leader in the software needed to power a self-driving car. By teaming with Lyft, it gains access to millions of people already using the Lyft app to find a ride.

For Lyft, the Waymo parternship helps protect it from potential irrelevance once autonomous vehicles dominate our roads. Self-driving rides are expected to be more affordable than trips with human drivers. So ridesharing companies will need to offer autonomous rides to stay competitive. Lyft hadn’t been developing its own self-driving technology.

General Motors, which is building autonomous vehicle technology, invested $500 million in Lyft in January 2016. At the time, the companies also announced plans to build a network of self-driving cars. A GM spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sunday’s news is also significant because Uber’s two biggest competitors are essentially teaming up against it.

The ridesharing goliath has had a disastrous year in which it’s struggled with a series of scandals. Uber’s self-driving car program is currently in crisis as it battles a lawsuit from rival Waymo over allegations of stolen technology.

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