Lyft, trying to establish itself as the top ride sharing company leader for the disabled community, is boosting efforts to provide rides to visually-impaired riders of its autonomous cars.

The No. 2 ride-hailing company after Uber has partnered with the National Federation for the Blind to test autonomous cars in Las Vegas equipped with Braille guides and route maps as well as sensors that alert riders to a waiting vehicle’s position. Lyft is working with Aptiv, which makes the autonomous technology.

  • Positioning itself as the inclusive, socially-minded ride-sharing company is a smart move, said Sharmila Chaterjee, Academic Head at MIT Sloan’s MBA Track in Enterprise Management. “This not only makes good business sense in terms of serving a community which needs their service but also is compatible with doing good for society at large,” Chaterjee says. 
  • The company also has branding in mind, which means in part differentiating from Uber. “No doubt it is part of the ‘we cater for everyone’ brand, but it is still a good thing that Lyft has been doing since its inception,” said Sergio Avedian, The Rideshare Guy contributor.
  • “I think the logistics of these tools for the visually impaired still need work in terms of how a blind individual may identify an automated car as the one he or she chose,’’ he said. “But socially, PR-wise, and for the automated car industry, this is good.”
  • Karma Takeaway: While the technology looks promising and socially impactful,  the technology is years from being widely available. “Perfecting full automation will take time,” Chaterjee said. Meanwhile Lyft continues to brand itself as the “woke” ridesharing platform.