Lyft Claims Its Ride-Hailing Fleet Will Be Primarily Driverless Within 5 Years

Lyft co-founder and president John Zimmer has an ambitious vision of the future. In his mind, there will come a day when most of the ride-hailing service is run by self-driving cars rather than flesh and blood drivers. Oh, and that day is coming sooner than you think—how does five years strike you? That's the bold prediction Zimmer made in a recent blog post, but it wasn't the only one.

Zimmer also predicted that private car ownership would "all but end" by 2025 in major U.S. cities, noting that millennials don't celebrate cars as symbols of freedom and identity the way that previous generations did and still do. To the average millennial, owning a car is an expensive burden, one that costs the average American $9,000 very year.

"The car has actually become more like a $9,000 ball and chain that gets dragged through our daily life. Owning a car means monthly car payments, searching for parking, buying fuel, and dealing with repairs," Zimmer suggests, adding that "ridesharing has already begun to empower many people to live without owning a car."

Is Zimmer crazy to think that car ownership is a dying fad and that autonomous transportation is really just around the corner? Perhaps not. There are several high profile companies working on self-driving cars, companies like Google and Tesla. Just this past January, Lyft partnered with General Motors to launch an on-demand network of autonomous vehicles.

"If you live in San Francisco or Phoenic, you have seen these cars on the road, and within five years a fully autonomous fleet of cars will provide the majority of Lyft rides across the country," Zimmer says.

Autonomous technology is advancing quickly, though safety and regulatory bodies may throw a wrench in Zimmer's five-year timeline. A recent death involving a driver that was using Tesla's Autopilot mode has prompted an investigation into the overall safety of autonomous technology and there could be rule changes in the pipeline as a result.

Still, it's hard to argue with Zimmer's vision of the future, even if his timeline might be off. He also makes some good points about the benefits of reducing car ownership. As it stands, cities are built around automobiles even though most cars sit idle the vast majority of the time.

"It may shock you, but Americans spend more than $2 trillion every year on car ownership — more money than we spend on food. What’s even more staggering is that for all the money we spend on them, the 250 million cars in America are only occupied 4 percent of the time. That’s the equivalent of 240 million of the 250 million cars being parked at all times. For the most part, your car isn’t actually a driving machine at all. It’s a parking machine," Zimmer says.

It's a tall order to reshape transportation as we know it, but kudos for people like Zimmer for trying to get the ball rolling.