Enlarge (credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Lyft)

On Thursday, Lyft announced a new self-driving car partnership with the Mountain View-based startup Drive.ai. In the coming months, Lyft customers in San Francisco will occasionally have their hails answered by Drive’s experimental self-driving cars—albeit with a safety driver in the front seat.

On its own, this isn’t huge news. Drive.ai is not a well-known company and the deal will initially involve only a handful of cars. But the announcement illustrates how Lyft is positioning itself to win the autonomous vehicle wars of the coming decade.

Tesla and Uber want to be the Apple of self-driving cars

A technician sits in an Uber self-driving car on September 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (credit: ANGELO MERENDINO/AFP/Getty Images)

Many experts expect that ride-sharing will be a major part of the self-driving car business. With no need to pay drivers, ride-sharing services can be a lot more affordable than taxis are today. And a ride-sharing approach will allow companies more flexibility in when, where, and how they roll out self-driving technology.

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