Why Toyota is acquiring Lyft’s autonomous vehicle unit

By William Smith
Lyft’s Level 5 unit will become part of Toyota subsidiary Woven Planet, which is dedicated to advanced mobility and self-driving technologies...

Ride-hailing firm Lyft has announced it is selling its self-driving vehicle unit to a subsidiary of Japanese automotive giant Toyota, in a deal worth $550mn.

Lyft’s Level 5 unit will become part of Toyota subsidiary Woven Planet, which is dedicated to advanced mobility and self-driving technologies.

Lyft follows Uber’s self-driving sale

The move is highly reminiscent of the sale of fellow ride-hailing firm Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group self-driving unit at the tail-end of last year. The self-driving vehicle business was sold to autonomous vehicle firm Aurora, in another effort from Uber to divest itself of unprofitable parts of its business and focus on its bread-and-butter ride-hailing and food delivery platforms, though it retained a 25% stake after the $4bn transaction.

“Not only will this transaction allow Lyft to focus on advancing our leading Autonomous platform and transportation network, this partnership will help pull in our profitability timeline,” Lyft Co-Founder and President John Zimmer said. “Assuming the transaction closes within the expected timeframe and the COVID recovery continues, we are confident that we can achieve Adjusted EBITDA profitability in the third quarter of this year.”

In pursuit of full autonomous driving

The established car giants are increasingly catching up to challengers by investing in autonomous vehicle technology. While the eventual goal is an autonomous vehicle at level 5 of the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) Levels of Driving Automation Standard, representing complete autonomy at all times, that target remains a way off.

The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2021, subject to the usual regulatory approvals and conditions.

“This acquisition assembles a dream team of world-class engineers and scientists to deliver safe mobility technology for the world,” James Kuffner, CEO of Woven Planet said. “The Woven Planet team, alongside the team of researchers at Toyota Research Institute, have already established a center of excellence for software development, automated driving, and advanced safety technology within the Toyota Group. I am absolutely thrilled to welcome Level 5’s world-class engineers and experts into our company, which will greatly strengthen our efforts.”

(Image: Lyft)

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