Self-driving Lyft cars to be tested in the Bay Area

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It appears Lyft is ready to shift into self-driving mode. The San Francisco-based company says it will soon debut a fleet of autonomous ridesharing vehicles in the Bay Area. (KGO-TV)

It appears Lyft is ready to shift into self-driving mode. The San Francisco-based company says it will soon debut a fleet of autonomous ridesharing vehicles in the Bay Area.

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"We're committed to improving people's lives with the world's best transportation," said Taggart Matthiesen, senior director of product for Lyft.

Lyft is launching its pilot program with Drive.ai, a local startup founded by former classmates out of Stanford University?s Artificial Intelligence Lab. The company is known for developing retrofit kits which allow businesses to convert traditional vehicles into self-driving models.

"We're thrilled to partner with Drive.ai to pilot self-driving cars in the Bay Area, and together help shape the future of transportation and ultimately the future of our communities,? says Matthiesen.

ABC7 News spoke to a number of Bay Area residents who expressed their support for the project.

"I think autonomous vehicles are definitely the wave of the future," said Melissa Moore, Oakland resident. "Definitely excited to see what happens."

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"I mean, if it can work in San Francisco, then it could probably work anywhere," said Richard Fleischer, San Francisco resident. "If the technology exists and they work out all the bugs, and it works well, then why not?"

As part of the pilot program, Drive.ai executives say the applicable Lyft rides will have a trained safety driver inside the vehicle. The company is permitted to operate up to six vehicles and 12 drivers, according to the DMV.

Lyft's main rival, Uber, ran into problems last year when it announced plans to enter the self-driving realm without getting permission from the state ahead of time.

"Pilot programs like this are vital to building awareness and familiarity with autonomous vehicle technology," said Drive.ai CEO Sameep Tandon. "Together, we can take the next step in autonomous vehicles, from testing to deployment in real, urban environments."

Lyft and Drive.ai officials declined to elaborate on an exact start date for the program, but sources say it will be a matter of months as opposed to years.

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