Lyft to Test Self-Driving Cars in California

The ride-hailing company will test its self-driving car technology at GoMentum Station, a government-managed proving ground for AVs and the largest of its kind in the country.

by / March 8, 2018
Lyft will test its self-driving car technology at GoMentum Station’s 5,000 acre autonomous vehicle test site in Concord, Calif., near the Bat Area. aptiv.com
Lyft, the ride-hailing service, will begin testing its fully autonomous technology at GoMentum Station in Concord, Calif., the site of the largest secure, self-driving car testing ground in the United States.
 
“It’s a huge deal for us,” said Randy Iwasaki, executive director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA), which manages the GoMentum Station, located near the San Francisco Bay Area in northern California. “This TNC (transportation network company) partnership is really huge for us. Because those companies, plus our shared, autonomous-vehicles kind of vision, is going to allow for … just a change in the way we move people in Contra Costa County. It’s a shift toward mobility as a service.”
 
The announcement comes as other companies, like Waymo and Uber, also move forward with developing self-driving car technology for the ride-hailing future.
 
CCTA and GoMentum recently received approval to test shared autonomous vehicles on public roads in Bishop Ranch, a mixed-use business park in nearby San Ramon. The approval allows companies like EasyMile to continue its testing of 12-passenger autonomous electric shuttles in Bishop Ranch.
 
For its part, Lyft’s activity at the GoMentum Station allows the company to further test and develop the technology already happening at its Level 5 Engineering Center in nearby Palo Alto. Those vehicles at the Level 5 Engineering Center will be tested at GoMentum.
 
“This will help to accelerate the introduction of our self-driving vehicles to the public and is a major step towards our mission of improving people’s lives with the world’s best transportation,” wrote Gwendolyn Belomy Keefe, a spokeswoman for Lyft, in an email.
 
Several months ago, Lyft began a pilot in Boston with nuTonomy, an MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) spinoff technology company that makes software for autonomous vehicles and robots. Riders using the Lyft app in Boston’s Seaport neighborhood are paired with one of nuTonomy’s autonomous vehicles. 
 
Company officials would not yet say how many AVs Lyft intends to bring to GoMentum Station’s 5,000-acre campus, or what kind they will be. But Lyft’s cars will join others from companies like Honda. In fact, greater numbers of cars can translate into a better test environment, allowing the vehicles to communicate with each other, as well as bicycles, pedestrians and other features of urban driving, said Iwasaki. Several months ago the Toyota Research Institute announced it plans to test its AV technology at GoMentum, as well.
 
“We want to make sure that the technology works, not just within themselves, but is operable with other technologies out there,” added Iwasaki.
 
“At Lyft, we believe in a future where self-driving cars make transportation safer and more accessible to everyone,” said Luc Vincent, vice-president of engineering at Lyft, in a statement. “By partnering with GoMentum Station, we’re able to test our self-driving systems in a secure facility and advance our technology in an efficient way.” 
Skip Descant Staff Writer

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.