General Motors has made one of its largest investments ever in another company. It has agreed to fund a partnership with Lyft, the ride sharing service, to the tune of $500,000,000. “We had a really common view of the future,” said GM President Dan Ammann in an interview with Reuters. Ammann will join Lyft’s board as part of the deal.
In the same interview, Lyft President John Zimmer said that the “culture and vision are very alike” between the two companies. “We think our business and personal mobility will change more in the next five years than the last 50,” said Ammann. Both GM and Lyft believe that autonomous driving vehicles will first appear as part of public ride sharing services rather than as privately owned cars.
For its part, Lyft will be able to take advantage of GM’s autonomous vehicle research and development, while GM will gain access to Lyft’s software, which automates driver and passenger matching along with online routing and payment methods. Taken together, GM and Lyft could create a network of cars that operate themselves and are available on demand. The companies provided no timeline for their ride sharing service. Lyft drivers will be eligible to lease GM vehicles on a short term basis to use for business purposes.
Lyft faces stern competition from the larger and better funded Uber, which has a market capitalization almost ten times greater. It is rushing to develop its own self driving cars, after it was rebuffed by Tesla’s Elon Musk when it offered to buy a half million autonomous driving cars from the California company earlier this year. Some think Musk’s refusal may signal that Tesla itself may be planning to enter the autonomous car sharing business. Recently, a rumor surfaced that Google and Ford have agreed to a partnership. The agreement is supposed to be made public at the Consumer Electronics Show that opens today.
With all the focus today on autonomous driving cars today, spearheaded by Tesla’s Autopilot system, it seems the world of self driving cars is coming sooner than anyone expected.