Lyft, the ride-hailing startup, announced today that it is partnering with General Motors to create a network of on-demand self-driving cars. The announcement comes as Lyft closes a $1 billion funding round, half of which came from GM. Lyft is now valued at $5.5 billion.
For the car manufacturer, the move demonstrates a shift away from focusing solely on selling cars, and more toward providing services for people who just need to get around but don’t necessarily want or need to own a vehicle. "The car industry is going to change more in the next five years than in the past 50," GM president Dan Ammann told Re/code, adding that GM plans to continue to invest in different business models going forward.
This isn’t GM’s first foray into autonomous vehicles; in October the automaker pledged to get self-driving Chevy Volts on roads by 2017. But this new partnership with Lyft could give GM access to the ride-share company’s user base, which is reportedly growing rapidly. The Lyft app facilitates 7 million rides each month; Uber serves 2 million rides per day.
"GM is the largest automaker in the U.S., so it made a lot of sense," said Lyft president and cofounder John Zimmer. "We both see the future of transportation through a network versus ownership and this is a step in that direction."
Uber is also researching autonomous driving options and could partner with Tesla down the road. Ford is also rumored to be joining forces with Google to create autonomous cars that run on the search giant’s technology, and may officially announce the partnership at CES this week.
Neither GM nor Lyft gave an indication of when the network of on-demand self-driving cars would be available. In the meantime, GM says Lyft drivers will be able to rent GM cars for short-term use through rental hubs across the U.S., "unlocking new ways for people to earn money without having to own a car."