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Lyft and Aptiv complete 5,000 self-driving rides in Las Vegas

Passenger are reportedly happy with the autonomous trips.
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Roberto Baldwin / Engadget

Lyft's experiment with paid self-driving rides in Las Vegas appears to be going as smoothly as you might hope. Lyft and its partner Aptiv have revealed that they've completed 5,000 autonomous trips since launching service earlier in 2018. The passengers are happy with the experience, Lyft claimed. About 96 percent said they planned to use self-driving service again, while 20 percent have already used the service at least twice. Lyft also touted the average five-star rating, although that's not surprising when max ratings are par for the course among human ridesharing drivers.

There are still some unknowns. Each car in the program (20 so far, 30 total) has a backup driver in case the system fails, and it's unclear how many of these trips required human intervention. It's also important to put Lyft's boasting in context. The company's overall service was racking up a million rides per day in 2017 -- 5,000 over the entire length of the self-driving program is a drop in the bucket. This is more about showing that the service has been hiccup-free than proving it was a resounding success.

Even so, it's good news for Lyft's widening ambitions. It already ran a self-driving test in Boston, but that was short-lived and confined to a small area. This shows that Lyft can sustain service over a significant period and a larger area (in this case, the Las Vegas Strip). The next challenge may be to scale to the point where Lyft can both cover very large areas and improve the reliability to the point where a backup driver isn't necessary. That might not happen for a long time given how cautious companies have been in the wake of Uber's fatal crash.

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