Uber may have stalled out with self-driving cars, but Lyft is just picking up speed.
The ride-hailing app’s fairly new self-driving division, Level 5, made its first acquisition, the company announced Tuesday. The London-based augmented reality company Blue Vision Labs will become part of Lyft and help develop AR, mapping, and camera tech for Level 5’s self-driving cars.
In a blog post, Level 5’s Luc Vincent touted Blue Vision Labs’ 3D maps, which are crowdsourced from car-mounted camera phones. He also floated an exciting way Lyft could use the startup’s AR technology. Imagine holding up your phone and seeing a virtual label above your Lyft car so you know it’s for you.
The reportedly $72-million deal comes just over a year after Lyft’s Level 5 autonomous car team was launched. It now has 300 people in Palo Alto and Munich, Germany. And now it has a London office.
Lyft was straggling behind other self-driving efforts from Uber, Cruise, and Waymo. But after Uber’s fatal crash earlier this year, Lyft’s been slowly building its self-driving car strategy, and is now testing on public roads in California. Lyft also has a new test vehicle, the Ford Fusion.
The Lyft announcement comes on the same day that an Intel survey about autonomous vehicles found more than 60 percent of respondents expected self-driving cars to be the norm in 50 years. But that’s in half a century. For now, only one-fifth of 1,000 people surveyed said they’d take a driverless car in exchange for their traditional vehicle.
When self-driving cars move beyond testing and offer real-life car services (like Waymo’s self-driving taxi service anticipated by the end of the year), riders said they plan to watch movies and TV in the car. With Lyft’s new deal maybe they can throw some AR games into the mix.