Luc Vincent, senior director of engineering at Google, has been hired by Lyft to lead the ride-hail company’s maps and marketplace division. He is the latest Google Maps engineer to migrate to the world of ride-sharing, where many companies are staffing up their mapping divisions in the interest of making the art of connecting rider and driver as precise as possible.
While at the search giant, Vincent helped pioneer Google Maps’ wildly popular Street View, which provides panoramic views of many of the world’s roads. At Lyft, Vincent said he will be helping the ride-hail company “rethink” transportation. That includes improving dispatch, pick-ups and drop-offs, and helping drivers get to where they need to go more precisely.
“People think Lyft’s mission is to just be a more efficient taxi company,” Vincent told The Verge. “But it’s really about rethinking transportation, rethinking how we move people and interact with the environment of the car. I think they can perceive the problems, they’re going very fast, they’re going after a giant market, and they can really make a difference in the world. So that’s why I decided to make a move.”
Vincent will work with Lyft’s VP of engineering, Peter Morelli, and chief technology officer, Chris Lambert, to staff up the company’s engineering division. This could be essential as Lyft’s president said recently that a “majority” of its rides will take place in self-driving cars by 2021.
“We are actively thinking about our next move there,” Vincent said about self-driving cars. “And the fact that Logan [Green] and John [Zimmer, Lyft’s co-founders] are soldiers in this and think that it’s going to be critical to the future is probably why I decided to come here.”
Lyft’s main rival, Uber, caught some flack recently after asking users permission to collect location data even when they are not using the app. This includes tracking riders five minutes after their trip ends, and even when the app is in the background of a customer’s smartphone. Lyft does not track its users after a trip ends, but Vincent said he’d be open to more expansion of location services if it improved trips.
“If it improves the process, which is the primary goal, we should think about ways to do it,” he said. A Lyft spokesperson added that the company does not collect data when the app is off and has no immediate plans to do otherwise.
Vincent is a major score for Lyft, considering many of Google’s engineering experts have gone to work for Uber. A few weeks ago, Amit Singhal, the former Google engineer who helped perfect the search engine’s ranking algorithm, went to work for Uber as senior vice president of engineering. He joined Manik Gupta, the former head of Google Maps product division, and Brian McClendon, who once ran Google’s entire mapping division. It comes at the same time that Uber is pumping $500 million into building a map of the entire world, a crucial step toward using autonomous vehicles.