Google, Tesla, Mercedes and others are working hard to build the best self-driving car. But will anyone actually buy them? In a Q&A session at this year’s South by Southwest, Lyft CEO Logan Green insisted the answer is “No.”
Green still thinks the transportation world will undergo a massive shift over the next few years, with more and more people opting to hail a car rather than own one. Eliminating vehicle ownership has apparently been Lyft’s mission all along, even though the company is mostly known as Uber’s main competition for taxi customers.
“We never set out to make a better taxi cab,” Green told the audience. “Our vision for the world is making car ownership unnecessary.” To take things another level deeper, the Lyft model is essentially an evolution of Green’s previous company, Zimride, a Web platform for arranging ride shares.
The problem with Zimride (other than the fact that it was a Web-based platform that made its debut just a few months before the iPhone) was that people didn’t want to plan how they’d get around days in advance. “When people want transportation, they want it now,” Green said. Lyft was Green’s solution to that particular conundrum.
Green suggested that eliminating the need to own a car would have major impacts on society that extend beyond transportation, including an increase in most people’s disposable income, a decrease in the amount of infrastructure needed for cars, and a shift in the social norms of commuting. But does Green truly believe in this vision, or is he driven by other motivations?
It’s possible that Green’s stance on self-driving cars has to do more with Uber’s decision to aggressively fund research into that technology. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announcing that self-driving cars were the future was something that greatly upset many Uber drivers, and Green may see that spasm of anger as an opportunity to differentiate Lyft in the hearts and minds of the drivers who work for his service.
Whether or not Green’s vision is genuine, we won’t know the outcome for several more years. Panelists at this year’s South by Southwest agree that self-driving vehicles probably won’t hit the road for several years, at least.
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