Now available on the South Boston waterfront: rides in a self-driving car.
Lyft customers in the Seaport District may be offered the chance of a trip in one of nuTonomy’s electric Renault vehicles, through a partnership between the ride-hailing firm and the Boston driverless car startup.
The first passenger trips were offered on Wednesday, though the companies said for now only “select passengers” will see the offer on their Lyft app.
“People selected were those who have expressed interest in experiencing the technology, and individuals who work in the testing area,” a nuTonomy spokeswoman said.
Those riders should prepare for a short trip. The companies can only operate in self-driving mode in an area roughly from Fort Point Channel to the marine industrial park.
NuTonomy, which was acquired this fall by auto supplier Delphi, has been testing autonomous vehicle operations in the Seaport since last January. It recently received permission from the city and state to offer rides to passengers in the testing zone.
The company is required to employ a safety driver at the wheel to take over in case something goes wrong, as well as another employee in the passenger seat. Riders who are matched with a driverless ride from nuTonomy will also be given the option to decline, and instead be given a convetional Lyft trip.
Last month, nuTonomy allowed 41 volunteer passengers to take a brief joyride around the neighborhood in a self-driving car. The company is the first autonomous vehicle company to offer passenger rides in Massachusetts.
The project also marks a milestone for Lyft, which has trailed its larger competitor, Uber, in the race to deploy driverless vehicles. While Uber has been offering rides in Pittsburgh and Arizona for months, Lyft has been striking partnerships with auto manufacturers and tech companies to eventually deploy them. NuTonomy is the first of these partnerships to hit the streets.
Another Boston-based driverless car company, Optimus Ride, plans to soon move passengers around Union Point, a 1,400-acre development on the South Shore.Adam Vaccaro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.