This week, nearly every major company developing autonomous vehicles in the U.S. halted testing in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19, which has sickened more than 250,000 people and killed over 10,000 around the world. Still some experts argue pandemics like COVID-19 should hasten the adoption of driverless vehicles for passenger pickup, transportation of goods, and more. Autonomous vehicles still require disinfection — which companies like Alphabet’s Waymo and KiwiBot are conducting manually with sanitation teams — but in some cases, self-driving cars and delivery robots might minimize the risk of spreading disease.
If you’ve been to Las Vegas in the last year, you might have seen one of Lyft’s self-driving cars tootling up and down the Strip. Heck, you might even have ridden in one.
The company has just revealed it’s now given more than 50,000 automated rides to paying passengers in the city, up from 30,000 in January 2019. Lyft says the figure makes it the largest commercial self-driving car program currently operating in the U.S.
Lyft partnered with vehicle technology firm Aptiv to launch the service, with locals and tourists alike able to request a ride in the usual way, via the Lyft app. It uses 30 modified BMW 540i cars, all kitted out with Aptiv-made sensor, cameras, and software to ensure a safe ride.