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Lyft will always have human drivers, its self-driving boss says

Director of Product Taggart Matthiesen says today’s drivers can provide other services when they’re not driving.

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As Lyft’s director of product, Taggart Matthiesen says he’s now completely focused on autonomous cars — but that doesn’t mean he’s not thinking about drivers.

“Drivers have always been part of our family, they have been core to our service,” Matthiesen told Recode’s Johana Bhuiyan on the latest episode of Recode Decode. “As far as I’m concerned, they will continue to be that. Over time, technology will give us the opportunity to provide additional services on our platform, whether that is a concierge service, whether that is an in-vehicle experience ... these are all things that we will slowly evolve and work with our drivers on.”

He didn’t say specifically what sort of conversations Lyft has had with drivers to date, but noted that there is already an “advisory council” that is proactively reaching out about the future of human workers in self-driving cars. Matthiesen said Lyft’s fleet “may never be 100 percent” autonomous because there are certain things only humans can do.

“If I need to go to the doctor’s office and my leg is in a cast and I can’t drive, we have a service for that,” he said. “If you get into the world of autonomous, we may need someone in that vehicle to help that person. There are things we’re doing beyond getting a passenger from point A to point B, additional services that we as a company can look at.”

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So, when will self-driving cars be a regular part of the Lyft experience? Matthiesen said pockets of the cars will start popping up soon, but that fleets of them may not be operating at scale for a decade or more. Eventually, the Lyft app would summon either a human-driven or a computer-driven vehicle, whatever can get to the user faster.

On the new podcast, he said the end goal is to become a subscription-like service, being for transportation what Spotify and Netflix are for music and TV/movies.

“We become yet another subscription service that is an afterthought,” Matthiesen said. “It’s a muscle memory of ‘When I go outside, I need to get somewhere, I hop in my Lyft.’”

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