Autonomous vehicles will not arrive overnight, but almost every week they seem to be a little closer to becoming an everyday reality.
The latest example of that incremental progress occurred in Boston on Wednesday when Lyft announced that the carpool company has started a driverless car pilot in the city's Seaport district. The program is a partnership with the NuTonomy autonomous vehicle company, which has been testing its cars in Boston since January.
[ GM could launch its own autonomous driving service in early 2019]  "Our partnership with Lyft has two objectives," NuTonomy said in a statement posted on its website. "First, we want members of the public to experience first-hand driverless vehicles, so they can better understand the impact that this new technology will have on their lives." Secondly, according to feedback from the pilot participants, NuTonomy engineers will adapt and improve our system, so that we can offer an extremely safe, efficient and convenient autonomous transport experience. "
– BostonTransportation (@BostonBTD) December 1, 2017
Experts predict that the cars without driver will advance neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city and state by state as the automobile companies compete data, refine their robots and seek to obtain more territory using what they have already learned. The result is likely to be a patchwork of gradual changes.
NuTonomy vehicles, which are available through the Lyft application, include a human backup driver in case the vehicle has problems, according to The Verge. The program marks an important step for Lyft, as it competes with Uber, which has introduced autonomous taxis in Phoenix and Pittsburgh. Those taxis include a human backup driver, but the company has presented an ambitious plan to put into operation a fully driverless Volvo Taxis in 2019, probably in the United States. Lyft, for its part, has partnered with at least five automakers, including Ford, GM, Waymo, Jaguar and Drive.AI, according to Recode.
Changing partnerships and new partnerships are the latest step for traditional carmakers and new companies in Silicon Valley to gain an advantage in the race for self-taught supremacy.
A General Motors executive told The Post last week that the company is rushing to launch autonomous vehicles for a service that could compete with Uber and Lyft. GM says that those robotic vehicles – battery-powered Chevy Bolts that are being developed by Cruise Automation, a subsidiary – will appear on US streets without a driver in 2019.
[Robot-driven Ubers without a human driver could appear as early as 2019]
GM has already begun to Testing autonomous vehicles on crowded streets in San Francisco said the vehicles will not have human backup drivers.
Back on the east coast, the city of Boston approved three companies to test autonomous vehicles in particular portions of the city, according to a statement on its website that states that autonomous vehicles "offer great promise" but it could also "displace an important workforce and encourage expansion and congestion."
"We will only allow testing during good weather and daylight hours," says the city. "Once a company reaches certain milestones, we can allow them to begin testing in other areas of Boston."
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