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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Lyft — and now its shareholders — are banking on robotaxis to replace high-priced drivers and help turn ride-hailing into a profitable enterprise. Don't count on it.

The big picture: Creating and deploying a robotaxi service is an expensive proposition — pegged by one AV company at $5 billion to $6 billion for the vehicle, the AV technology and the fleet operations and maintenance.

  • Even with partners to share the burden, those added costs would likely offset any savings from the elimination of human drivers, experts tell Axios.

What's happening: Lyft's initial public stock offering — likely to be followed by an Uber IPO within weeks — is a measure of investors' faith in the company's growth prospects.

  • Lyft's newly listed stock surged to nearly $89 after its $72 debut last Friday, but has plummeted since then.
  • Lyft's shareholder prospectus frequently touted its ambitious long-term AV aspirations — including a broad range of ride-hailing and transportation scenarios over the next 5–15 years.
  • It's hard to know if the stock's decline is tied to skepticism about AVs in particular or ride-hailing in general.

Details: Lyft said it has a two-pronged strategy to bring AVs to market. 

  • Its open platform lets AV developers use their vehicles to fulfill rides on Lyft's network, gaining insights into ride-hailing networks. In Las Vegas, for example, auto tech supplier Aptiv has deployed a fleet of automated BMWs (with a safety driver) on the Lyft network, providing 35,000 rides since January 2018.
  • Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley, Lyft is working with another big supplier, Magna, to jointly develop full self-driving technology. The team includes more than 300 engineers and robotics experts, a Lyft spokesperson says.
  • Magna can share their co-developed technologies with other customers, an arrangement Lyft says will accelerate the introduction of self-driving vehicles and "democratize" access to the technology.

Yes, but: Lyft already loses massive amounts of money — $911 million in 2018 — even though it's the epitome of an "asset light" business, with neither cars nor drivers on its books.

The bottom line: Perhaps Lyft is betting that more AVs on the road — from any automaker — will fuel growth in its ride-hailing network. But the company is not saying much so it will be up to investors — and customers — to decide.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - World

Skripal poisoning suspects linked to Czech blast, as country expels 18 Russians

Combined images released by British police in 2018 of Alexander Petrov (L) and Ruslan Boshirov, who are suspected of carrying out an attack in the in the southern English city of Salisbury using Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, and also the2014 Czech depot explosion. Photo: Metropolitan Police via Getty Images

Czech police on Saturday connected two Russian men suspected of carrying out a poisoning attack in Salisbury, England, with a deadly ammunition depot explosion southeast of the capital, Prague, per Reuters.

Driving the news: Czech officials announced Saturday they're expelling 18 Russian diplomats they accuse of being involved in the blast in Vrbětice, AP notes. Czech police said later they're searching for two men carrying several passports — including two with the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

Indianapolis mass shooting suspect legally bought 2 guns, police say

Marion County Forensic Services vehicles are parked at the site of a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Friday. Photo: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images

The suspected gunman in this week's mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis legally purchased two "assault rifles" believed to have been used in the attack, police said late Saturday.

Of note: The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's statement that Brandon Scott Hole, 19, bought the rifles last July and September comes a day after the FBI told news outlets that a "shotgun was seized" from the suspect in March 2020 after his mother raised concerns about his mental health.

U.S. and China agree to take joint climate action

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry waves as he arrives at the Elysee Presidential Palace on March 10, 2021 in Paris. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Despite an increasingly tense relationship, the U.S. and China agreed Saturday to work together to tackle global climate change, including by "raising ambition" for emissions cuts during the 2020s — a key goal of the Biden administration.

Why it matters: The joint communique released Saturday evening commits the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases to work together to keep the most ambitious temperature target contained in the Paris Climate Agreement viable by potentially taking additional emissions cuts prior to 2030.