Lyft president predicts a driverless future, says Tesla has it all wrong

Lyft president John Zimmer predicts that his company’s ride-hailing fleet of cars will be mostly autonomous within five years, and that “private car ownership will all but end in major U.S. cities” by 2025.

Zimmer also called out fellow transportation disruptor Elon Musk, saying the Tesla CEO is mistaken in thinking the automotive revolution will hinge upon private ownership.

For the record:

12:10 p.m. May 23, 2019An earlier version of this story incorrectly quoted President John Zimmer as saying only 24% of 16- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. have driver’s licenses. Zimmer actually said that 24% of 16-year-olds hold those licenses.

“Elon is right … but the transition to an autonomous future will not occur primarily through individually owned cars,” Zimmer wrote in a letter published early Sunday morning.

Citing the high monthly cost of private auto ownership, and calling automobiles “a $9,000 ball and chain that gets dragged through our daily life,” Zimmer said the future of ride-hailing is all about new drivers who don’t want the “monthly car payments, searching for parking, buying fuel, and dealing with repairs” that define the average auto experience.

“Ridesharing has already begun to empower many people to live without owning a car,” he said, noting that only 24% of 16-year-olds in the U.S. today have driver’s licenses -- down from 46% 1983.


Lyft has seen significant growth in its ride-hailing service, claiming that its drivers gave 14.6 rides per month, on average, through August of this year.

But it continues to lag in public perception behind competitor Uber.

Lyft partnered earlier this year with General Motors, signing an agreement under which the automotive giant will invest $500 million in the ride-hailing company with a view to create an autonomous vehicle network.

Lyft has been testing self-driving cars on public roads in Phoenix, and has announced plans to begin autonomous ride-hailing some time next year.

Uber has already begun doing that, with autonomous pickup service already underway in Pittsburgh -- albeit with Uber engineers sharing the ride with their customers.

Lyft has also made a deal that will give its drivers favorable terms to lease electric vehicles from GM — particularly its Chevrolet Volt hybrid and the coming Bolt EV plug-in vehicle — in order to conduct business using less gasoline.

Twitter: @misterfleming