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Lyft riders will be able to hail a semi-autonomous car in the Bay Area by the end of 2017

Lyft is working with self-driving startup

A semi-autonomous Audi drives in the rain.
A semi-autonomous Audi drives in the rain.

Lyft is adding another self-driving startup to the roster of software companies it’s working with. The ride-hail company will be working with to bring its semi-autonomous cars to the Bay Area by the end of the year.

Lyft riders will be able to summon a car that drives itself part of the time. A driver will still be present to take over in situations where the software can’t properly read the terrain or the presence of pedestrians.

While the experience won’t be significantly different to the customer, Lyft and its chief competitor, Uber, have been testing semi-autonomous vehicles in an effort to eventually deploy cars without drivers. Such vehicles could operate nearly continuously, and wouldn’t require the company to split fares with the driver., which recently raised $50 million and is backed by GGV Capital, is now the fourth autonomous software company Lyft has signed. In addition to Cruise, which is owned by GM, Lyft is also working with Alphabet’s Waymo and the Boston-based startup nuTonomy, which expects to roll out its semi-autonomous cars on the Lyft platform in Boston by the end of the year.

The companies aren’t sharing many details about the pilot — such as when exactly it will launch, or where in the Bay Area. What we know is that Lyft will invite customers to test the service for free, and the pilot will initially include the handful of cars has already been testing.

In addition to building out its own self-driving software, Lyft has created an open platform that is available to automakers and software companies.

Autonomous cars parked in’s garage include a Lincoln sedan and an Audi sedan.’s garage of cars, which include a Lincoln sedan and an Audi sedan.

While it’s certainly a development for Lyft, this is by no means an indication that fully autonomous cars will be available anytime soon. The industry is still in the test phase.

Uber is trying out its autonomous network in Arizona, San Francisco and Pittsburgh, while Waymo is testing an on-demand network in Arizona. Cruise employees have also been testing an internal app in downtown San Francisco, and nuTonomy has been testing its own services in both Singapore and Boston.

Keep in mind, these are just tests, and aren’t in and of themselves indicators of which companies are ahead in the race to getting a network of fully self-driving cars on the road. Progress is more dependent on how well cars can drive themselves in as many situations and geographies as possible.

For instance, Cruise’s app — called Cruise Anywhere — allows staffers to take its semi-autonomous Chevy Bolts to anywhere in downtown San Francisco. Navigating city traffic and variables is no small feat.

Still, all of these pilots are operating in thoroughly mapped-out, geofenced areas. The biggest tangible development for consumers is that more of them will actually be exposed to and experience autonomous technology for the first time.

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