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Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Doubling down on its investment in self-driving cars, ride-hailing company Lyft is set to open a new office in Silicon Valley that will focus on autonomous driving tech. Named after the highest level of autonomous driving — Level 5 — the facility will house several hundred employees by the end of 2017.

In-house tech: Until now, Lyft's self-driving car efforts have been limited to working with other technology makers by providing them access to its ride-hailing network and data via its Open Platform. But now the company plans to develop its own technologies to tackle mapping, perception, localization, path planning, and motion control. Already, 10% of the company's engineers are working on autonomous driving tech, says Lyft.

Why it matters: Lyft's new move is not only a significant increase in its investment in self-driving cars, but it's also turning into a more direct competitor to its partners like Waymo and GM, which are developing their own versions of autonomous driving tech.

Open approach: Lyft says it plans to make some of its technology and resources available to its platform partners. It also plans to contribute to the broader industry by publicly releasing some data, publishing research papers, and opening access to its network for research, according to Luc Vincent, Lyft's head of autonomous driving, though it's not made concrete plans yet.

Future drivers: Lyft says that it will always employ drivers in some capacity even when self-driving cars become a reality—either to drive in situations in which autonomous systems can't, or to fulfill other functions. This echoes the predictions of other tech leaders, who have said that while self-driving cars will eliminate driving jobs, they will give rise to a slew of new jobs.

Planned testing: Lyft says it's still on track to roll out a pilot program in partnership with self-driving car startup nuTonomy later this year in Boston. It's also still planning to debut a program with GM, though it's unclear when this will happen. Company execs also declined to comment on Lyft's plans to get a self-driving car testing permit for its home state of California.

Go deeper

UN poll: Most see climate change as global emergency amid pandemic

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (C) fronts a Fridays For Future protest at the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm in September. Photo: Jonathan Nacksrtrand/AFP via Getty Images

64% of people from around the world say climate change is a global emergency, a United Nations poll published Wednesday finds.

Why it matters: It's biggest global survey on climate change ever conducted, with some 1.2 million participants from 50 countries — including the U.S. where 65% of those surveyed view climate change as an emergency.

Collins helps contractor before pro-Susan PAC gets donation

Sen. Susan Collins during her reelection campaign. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins in her high-stakes reelection campaign received $150,000 from an entity linked to the wife of a defense contractor whose firm Collins helped land a federal contract, new public records show.

Why it matters: The executive, Martin Kao of Honolulu, leaned heavily on his political connections to boost his business, federal prosecutors say in an ongoing criminal case against him. The donation linked to Kao was veiled until last week.

How cutting GOP corporate cash could backfire

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies pulling back on political donations, particularly to members of Congress who voted against certifying President Biden's election win, could inadvertently push Republicans to embrace their party's rightward fringe.

Why it matters: Scores of corporate PACs have paused, scaled back or entirely abandoned their political giving programs. While designed to distance those companies from events that coincided with this month's deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, research suggests the moves could actually empower the far-right.

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