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5 Big Takeaways Regarding Autonomous Vehicles from LYFT and UBER’s IPO Filings

With the Lyft IPO already behind us and the Uber IPO coming up, we took at look at what both companies are saying regarding autonomous vehicles (AV) in their filings with the SEC. While the AV space is undeniably exciting, we like reading the actual filings since the statements there are heavily reviewed. We read through UBER’s most recent S-1/A and LYFT’s post-IPO 424.

Here are our five main takeaways, in the companies’ own words:

1) Autonomous vehicles are just a few years away, and both companies are investing heavily:

“We believe that autonomous vehicles will be an important part of our offerings over the long term, and in 2018, we incurred $457 million of research and development expenses for our ATG and Other Technology Programs initiatives.”

ATG was established in 2015 in Pittsburgh with 40 researchers from Carnegie Robotics and Carnegie Mellon University. ATG has primary engineering offices in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto with over 1,000 employees. ATG has built over 250 self-driving vehicles, collected data from millions of autonomous vehicle testing miles, and completed tens of thousands of passenger trips.”

“ATG focuses on developing autonomous vehicle technologies, which we believe have the long-term potential to provide safer and more efficient rides and deliveries to consumers, as well as lower prices.”  (Uber S-1/A)

We are investing in autonomous vehicle technology, which we believe will be a critical part of the future of transportation. Our strategy is always to be at the forefront of transportation innovation, and we believe these investments will continue to position us as a leader in TaaS.”

“We will also continue to make significant investments in autonomous vehicle technology, such as our Open Platform and Level 5 Engineering Center, to achieve our vision of integrating autonomous vehicle technology into our platform to complement drivers on our platform and increase availability.”

“We are investing in autonomous technology and employ a two-pronged strategy to bring autonomous vehicles to market. Our Open Platform provides market-leading developers of autonomous vehicle technology access to our network to enable their vehicles to fulfill rides on our platform. Simultaneously, we are building our own world-class autonomous vehicle system at our Level 5 Engineering Center, with the goal of ensuring access to affordable and reliable autonomous technology. We believe that the strength of our brand, our trusted relationships with riders and our expertise in operating a ridesharing network at scale, as well as our two-pronged strategy to bring autonomous vehicles to market, will be competitive advantages that will enable us to capture value in the emerging autonomous vehicle ecosystem.”

“Within 10 years, our goal is to have deployed a low-cost, scaled autonomous vehicle network that is capable of delivering a majority of the rides on the Lyft platform.” (Lyft post-IPO 424.)

2) The autonomous vehicle “winners” are unclear (UBER/LYFT vs. legacy car makers vs. new entrants).

Interestingly, UBER does not mention LYFT as an AV competitor but LYFT does mention UBER.

We also compete with OEMs and other technology companies in the development of autonomous vehicle technologies and the deployment of autonomous vehicles, including Waymo, Cruise Automation, Tesla, Apple, Zoox, Aptiv, May Mobility,, Aurora, and Nuro, whose offerings may prove more effective than our autonomous vehicle technologies. Waymo has already introduced a commercialized ridehailing fleet of autonomous vehicles, and it is possible that our other competitors could introduce autonomous vehicle offerings earlier than we will.” (Uber S-1/A)

“There are also a number of companies developing autonomous vehicle technology that may compete with us in the future, including Alphabet (Waymo), Apple, Baidu, Uber and Zoox as well as many other technology companies and automobile manufacturers and suppliers.” (Lyft post-IPO 424.)

3) There won’t be an autonomous vehicles “cliff.” Humans and AVs will coexist on the road (a “hybrid autonomy”), but the transition might not be smooth:

Along the way to a potential future autonomous vehicle world, we believe that there will be a long period of hybrid autonomy, in which autonomous vehicles will be deployed gradually against specific use cases while Drivers continue to serve most consumer demand. As we solve specific autonomous use cases, we will deploy autonomous vehicles against them. Such situations may include trips along a standard, well-mapped route in a predictable environment in good weather. In other situations, such as those that involve substantial traffic, complex routes, or unusual weather conditions, we will continue to rely on Drivers. Moreover, high-demand events, such as concerts or sporting events, will likely exceed the capacity of a highly utilized, fully autonomous vehicle fleet and require the dynamic addition of Drivers to the network in real time”

“Further, we are investing in our autonomous vehicle strategy, which may add to Driver dissatisfaction over time, as it may reduce the need for Drivers.” (Uber S-1/A)

Our ridesharing network is positioned to facilitate the gradual introduction of autonomous vehicles on select, defined routes to complement human drivers. We have set ambitious goals for Lyft to broadly deploy autonomous vehicle technology. In the next five years, our goal is to deploy an autonomous vehicle network that is capable of delivering a portion of rides on the Lyft platform. Within 10 years, our goal is to have deployed a low-cost, scaled autonomous vehicle network that is capable of delivering a majority of the rides on the Lyft platform. And, within 15 years, we aim to deploy autonomous vehicles that are purpose-built for a broad range of ridesharing and transportation scenarios, including short- and long-haul travel, shared commute and other transportation services.” (Lyft post-IPO 424.)

4) The legal framework around autonomous vehicles is unclear:

We expect that governments will develop regulations that are specifically designed to apply to autonomous vehicles. These regulations could include requirements that significantly delay or narrowly limit the commercialization of autonomous vehicles, limit the number of autonomous vehicles that we can manufacture or use on our platform, or impose significant liabilities on manufacturers or operators of autonomous vehicles or developers of autonomous vehicle technologies.”

“Failures of our autonomous vehicle technologies or additional crashes involving autonomous vehicles using our technology would generate substantial liability for us, create additional negative publicity about us, or result in regulatory scrutiny, all of which would have an adverse effect on our reputation, brand, business, prospects, and operating results.” (Uber S-1/A)

There are a number of existing laws, regulations and standards that may apply to autonomous vehicle technology, including vehicle standards that were not originally intended to apply to vehicles that may not have a human driver. Such regulations continue to rapidly evolve, which may increase the likelihood of complex, conflicting or otherwise inconsistent regulations, which may delay our ability to bring autonomous vehicle technology to market or significantly increase the compliance costs associated with this business strategy.” (Lyft post-IPO 424.)

5) Publicity risks around AVs are real and they produce real setbacks.

“Autonomous vehicle technologies involve significant risks and liabilities. We have conducted real-world testing of our autonomous vehicles, involving a trained driver in the driver’s seat monitoring operations while the vehicle is in autonomous mode. In March 2018, one of these test vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. Following that incident, we voluntarily suspended real-world testing of our autonomous vehicles for several months in all markets where we were conducting real-world testing, which was a setback for our autonomous vehicle technology efforts.” (Uber S-1/A)

“Accidents, defects or other negative incidents involving autonomous vehicles on our platform.”

Public perception regarding the safety of autonomous vehicles for drivers, riders, pedestrians and other vehicles on the road.” (Lyft post-IPO 424.)

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We collected the information above using Sentieo’s synonym/acronym search capability, after which we used Sentieo’s highlighting and tagging function to send our notes directly into our integrated Notebook for review.

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