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Can Lyft and GM’s Self-Driving Cars Compete with Uber?

Uber has gone from small startup to the most valuable private company in the world. Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanic spoke at a Dreamforce conference about how the world would be a better place if all cars were Uber cars. He believes there would be no traffic or parking problems, there would be less pollution, and less unemployment. In over 300 cities worldwide, with an average of 1,000 riders-per-minute Uber’s big dreams seem to have been paying off so far. The next direction that Uber is dreaming is in the way of self-driving cars. When driverless cars are the standard, Uber prices would drop dramatically. Ideally low enough that people in underserved areas with less access to public transportation would be able to hail an Uber instead.

General Motors exhibit at Century 21 Exposition in 1962.

But Uber is not the only company with this Auto-topia in the big picture of their plans. GM has investing $500 million into Uber’s biggest competition, Lyft. Together with Lyft, GM will be working to develop a network of autonomous vehicles that can be hailed on-demand. There will be other benefits, however, in the present day of human driven rides: Lyft drivers will be able to use OnStar services from GM. The connected smart technology is available in most newer cars, and has features that turn the vehicle into a “smart car”, like a WiFi hotspot, and the continuous monitoring of the vehicle’s health while in use, as well as the ability to remotely unlock doors and trunks.

GM will also become a preferred partner for Lyft, allowing potential drivers who may not otherwise own cars or have access to a vehicle, the ability to pick up cars from rental locations country-wide and earn money driving through Lyft.

And GM aren’t the only ones. From Saudi-Arabian billionaire Prince al-Waleed bi Talal, to Twitter, there are a lot of big names putting money behind the Uber competitor. The company is said to have a value of $5.5 million, and has raised $2.1 billion in funding since launching, and has formed a global alliance that will pair Lyft with three other global ride-hailing companies. The alliance, which goes into effect this year, will make it easier for travelers to continue to use Lyft while out of the country. The four companies combined will cover almost 50% of the world’s population.

But is it enough to compete with the $70 billion dollar valuation company that is Uber? Sidecar, another competitor launched in 2012, and purported inventor of ride-sharing in personal cars rather than towncars and limousines, closed its virtual doors on December 31st, 2015 as Sidecar founder and CEO Sunil Paul announced in a Medium post. Sidecar had been an early competitor with nearly $35 million in funding at the beginning, but never was able to procure the customer or investor numbers that Uber and Lyft found, leaving Sidecar at a capital disadvantage it was not able to recover from. The company has not left the scene completely, however. They are “working on strategic alternatives and laying the groundwork for the next big thing.”

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