"Autonomous vehicle fleets will quickly become widespread and will account for the majority of Lyft rides within 5 years," wrote Lyft Co-Founder John Zimmer in a Medium post on Sunday.
He also predicted that by 2025 private car ownership will be on its last leg and described an epiphany he had while taking a city planning course in college. "We’ve built our communities entirely around cars. And for the most part, we’ve built them for cars that aren’t even moving. The average vehicle is used only 4% of the time and parked the other 96%," he wrote.
Zimmer has attempted to co-opt the future envisioned by Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk, who believes that the transition to autonomous vehicles will happen through a network of autonomous car owners renting their vehicles to others. He said Lyft will be able to provide more availability, consistency and cleanliness than private owners. "Elon is right that a network of vehicles is critical, but the transition to an autonomous future will not occur primarily through individually owned cars. It will be both more practical and appealing to access autonomous vehicles when they are part of Lyft’s networked fleet," wrote Zimmer.
Zimmer's post was a pitch for "transportation as a service" and freedom from the "$9,000 ball and chain that gets dragged through our daily life." According to him, the end of private car ownership will change urban landscapes for the better and an autonomous car Lyft network will be easier on people's pockets and provide them with more flexibility. It is noteworthy that, unlike Uber, he hasn't made the controversial claim that Lyft will be better for air quality. (See also, Uber Claims It Saved 605K Litres of Fuel in India)
In January, General Motors and Lyft announced a long-term strategic alliance to create an integrated network of on-demand autonomous vehicles in the U.S. Last week, Uber rolled out its self-driving program in Pittsburgh, which allows passengers to sit in a car that drives itself. However, an Uber engineer and driver sit in the front seats, ready to take over in case a problem occurs.
Groups like the Independent Drivers Guild in New York City have been concerned that autonomous vehicles will mean a loss of employment for drivers. Zimmer offered his rationale for why the demand for human drivers is likely to grow, not decrease, as more autonomous cars hit the road. He wrote, "Rides in autonomous vehicles will be less expensive than any options today and will lead to more people using Lyft for more and more of their transportation needs. As people rely on Lyft for more of their transportation, they are more likely to live car-free. And as more people trade their keys for Lyft, the overall market will grow dramatically." (See also, Uber Has Lost Over $1 Billion This Year)