Lyft (Courtesy of Lyft)

Lyft founder claims that all its cars will be self-driving by 2021

In the same essay, he argues, counter-intuitively, such a situation will help the people it would seem to hurt

Scott Eric Kaufman
September 19, 2016 11:44PM (UTC)

According to Lyft co-founder and President John Zimmer, the company intends on having an utterly autonomous fleet by 2021 -- a mere five years from now. Zimmer wrote an essay in Medium explaining his decision.

"I wanted to write a long piece because this is the stuff we’ve been working about almost 10 years now when we started Zimride in 2007,” Zimmer told Medium's Darrell Etherington in an interview.


“There are a lot of marketing stunts happening where you put a few cars on the road," he continued, "or you make announcements and press releases, but the thing that nobody’s talking about is you have this once-every-hundred-year opportunity to – if we work with the right stakeholders – to actually impact how our cities work."

When asked what this means for the drivers of currents – truck drivers, taxi drivers, etc. – offering instead what amounts to a counter-factual from an urban planning graduate seminar, saying only that in the short-term an automated fleet would benefit the very people whose jobs it would be replacing.

Lyft announced a speculative plan with General Motors to accomplish this in January, at which time Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk said he assumed the network would consist of autonomous car owners renting their vehicles to Lyft, but that was deemed untenable given the potential unwillingness of self-driving car owners to rent their vehicles to unknown cars or individuals.

Moreover, a city with automated fleets means there would be fewer cars sitting idle in parking, freeing urban planners to design buildings and cities around human being as opposed to the vehicles they drive.

As Zimmer noted on Medium, "[r]idesharing is just the first phase of the movement to end car ownership and reclaim our cities [because] as I mentioned before, the shift to autonomous cars will expand dramatically over the next ten years, transforming transportation into the ultimate subscription service."


Scott Eric Kaufman

Scott Eric Kaufman is an assistant editor at Salon. He taught at a university, but then thought better of it. Follow him at @scottekaufman or email him at

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Driverless Cars Elon Musk General Motors John Zimmer Lyft Tesla Video

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