Ride-sharing firm Lyft says it will continue to rely on drivers in the near and long term even as it replaces them with driverless cars, Taggart Matthiesen, Lyft's director of product, said during a Podcast with Recode.
In other words, Matthiesen says Lyft plans to offer opportunities for drivers as it achieves its core mission of replacing them with driverless fleets. It will do this even though one of its core missions is to no longer have to pay for the "dude in the car," in reference to ex-Uber CEO and founder Travis Kalanick's now famous comment about how Uber sought to save costs by launching driverless cars.
Over time, technology will give us the opportunity to provide additional services on our platform, whether that is a concierge service, whether that is an in-vehicle experience when a driver helps out in that capacity. These are all things that will slowly evolve and that we will work with our drivers on. If you think about hundreds of thousands of autonomous vehicles, there's an aspect of cleaning and there's an aspect of fleet management; so over time, you are going to see a lot of services that come up, which provide yet another opportunity.
Meanwhile, Lyft is charging ahead with driverless to the extent that it is employing "hundreds of engineers" in 2018 after announcing it had created a driverless arm in July.
In the near term, driverless cars will represent an "extension" of what Lyft offers today, Matthiesen said.
"Today we have 100 percent drivers on our platform, and over time, we are going to see this hybrid evolution where autonomous at some point in our business becomes key. It's definitely something we're going to weave into every aspect of our product," Matthiesen said.
Eventually, Lyft hopes to have driverless fleets numbering in the hundreds of thousands, Matthiesen said. Matthiesen also did not specify whether Lyft would have jobs for all drivers when Lyft's autonomous fleet reaches that level, but he did say "there will be opportunities" for them.
While we are on the subject of machines replacing human drivers on a scale unprecedented since the industrial revolution, Esquire Classic recently republished a long-form narrative article on truck drivers. Based on the experience of the writer who took to the blue highways for a year, the article both captures the romanticism of seeing the country in a way only a trucker could ever do, tempered by the hard reality of earning a living by driving a truck. Eventually, this lifestyle should, of course, disappear as the "dude in truck" is replaced by the machine.
3M says its barcode technology will offer a near foolproof way for driverless cars' neural networks to recognize signages. After researchers have shown how it is possible to spoof how driverless cars perceive and react to signs, the 3M technology could be one way to at least mitigate one of the more worrisome hacking threats associated with self-drive vehicles.