Driverless car rides? Garcetti hopes L.A. will be first

Mayor Eric Garcetti hopes Los Angeles will be first city to offer rides in driverless vehicles.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles would be the first city offering people rides in self-driving cars, if Mayor Eric Garcetti fulfills one of his dreams.

At a downtown conference Monday on city innovations sponsored by The Atlantic magazine, Garcetti told attendees the city is working with UCLA to make the Westwood area a test site for a ride-sharing service like Lyft or Uber, but with automated cars.

Projects to test such new technology and infrastructure are needed, the mayor said, because “autonomous vehicles are going to be here.”


Garcetti’s comments came as he outlined a series of transportation improvements being made in Los Angeles, as well as some more futuristic proposals.

He said the ongoing expansion of the region’s rail lines is “transformative for the car capitol.” Some investments could have multi-mode possibilities, he suggested. Increasing construction of dedicated rapid bus lanes through the city could one day create pathways for self-driving cars, he said.

“How do you spend billions of dollars on fixed rail when we might not own cars in this city in a decade or a decade and a half?” Garcetti asked.

“A bus lane today may be a bus and an autonomous vehicle lane tomorrow,” he said.

The city is working with Xerox, he also told the conference, on an integrated app that would make Los Angeles “the first big city, hopefully” to allow a one-stop purchase point for all modes of ground transportation.

Riders could buy a pre-paid credit “through a single app” and “order a taxi, an Uber, a Lyft, Sidecar,” Garcetti said. “I could get on the bus, get on the rail. I could get a shared bike.”

Under the concept, he said the city or the Metro transit system would make a small transaction fee from the app.


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