Engineering & Design

Anna Wells Aug 06, 2019

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In a move that feels equal parts strategic and “hail Mary,” Lyft – the ride hailing rival to Uber – will make public a set of driverless vehicle data compiled over two years of research and development.

Lyft, in a blog post, says the release is the “largest public data set of its kind,” and, according to Tech Crunch, it contains more than “55,000 3D frames of captured footage hand-labeled by human reviewers, data collected by seven cameras and as many as three lidars depending on the car used, plus a drivable surface map and HD spatial semantic data that corresponds to the captured info to provide context to researchers.”

But why? Last we checked the race towards the first autonomous vehicle has been pretty intense, with dozens of high profile companies establishing a flurry of partnerships, along with investing billions into driverless R&D.

Well, there’s a few reasons. For its part, Lyft is saying it wants to “level the playing field” and help democratize access to this technology – and that’s probably true, considering Lyft –as a ride hailing business – is one of the companies that has arguably the most to gain from driverless tech reaching road-readiness quickly.

But there’s another benefit here, as Lyft’s free data access comes with another offer too: the company plans to host a competition for budding tech enthusiasts to “inspire use of the data.” Winners not only receive a $25,000 cash prize but, also, a job interview.

So will this move help funnel talent into Lyft’s driverless program without costing them any sort of competitive advantage? Perhaps. Lyft isn’t the first company to bring open source research to the driverless car race – in fact, Waymo revealed more than 16 hours of data just last month – which might suggest that the need for engineering talent is the bigger challenge and this data reveal is, at least partly, the wrapping.

Image Credit: Thomas Industry Update

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