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Fully autonomous Lyft cars may be coming sooner than later, hiring data suggests

Lyft ($NASDAQ:LYFT), the rideshare company that competes with Uber for your rideshare dollars (and for your gig-economy time), appears to be making headway when it comes to creating full-autonomous vehicles. That's because the company has been hiring for several Level-5 teams for some time now. So far, that's no secret. The company even has a Level-5 page at its website that details the company's progress in creating full-autonomous vehicles.

That page has been quiet since this time last year, when in November 2018, the company notes that its "Employee Pilot" launched. 

But since then, Lyft hasn't really said a word about its Level-5 program. Meanwhile, it's been busy — very busy — hiring a team around the world to make Level-5 vehicles happen.

Just last month, hiring for Lyft's various Autonomous Vehicle groups spiked to its highest levels yet, moving from 40 openings in August to 57 worldwide by October.

Hiring spans across multiple groups and multiple locations, from Software Engineers for Lyft's Autonomous Software (Level 5) group in Palo Alto, to an Autonomous Knowledge (Level 5) group in Munich.

Most hiring activity has come from Lyft's Autonomous Software (Level 5) group, which has been hiring Software Engineers by the dozens. A nascent University Autonomous group has spun up hiring for Ph.D. Engineer interns in a clear move to capture brilliant minds before they hit the open market.

Futurists, analysts, and investors predict that there will be 8 million autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles on the roads of the world. But in order to get there, we must teach computers — and cars — how to drive on their own. There are six levels of vehicle automation, from 0 (fully manual) to 5 (fully autonomous, with zero human interaction). Given Lyft's focus on Level 5 hires, it looks like the company is making headway.

Lyft isn't the only player in the race to put autonomous vehicles on the road. Tesla already has semi-autonomous vehicles in the hands (or not so much) of consumers, and Apple is racing toward vehicle autonomy as well. Meanwhile, auto-industry stalwarts like Ford are working on similar technology for their future vehicles. Even Google is in on the action via its Waymo unit.

About the Data: 

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

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Joshua Fruhlinger

Joshua has been writing about technology, lifestyle, and business for over 20 years. He's one of the original writers and editors for Engadget, and still writes a...

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