28 avr 21

Toyota buys Lyft’s autonomous car division

Through its subsidiary Woven Planet Holdings, Toyota is buying the autonomous vehicle division of Lyft. One year after its competitor Uber, Lyft is the second ridehailing company to sell its AV division. Hitherto, Toyota has been very discreet about its self-driving technology.

Under the terms of the agreement, Woven Planet Holdings will acquire Lyft’s autonomous vehicle division for $550 million in cash, $200 million of which to be paid up front. The remainder will be paid out to Lyft over the course of five years, which will help the company earn a profit.

Once the deal is finalised, which is expected to occur in Q3 2021, Lyft will end its efforts to develop self-driving cars. Last year, Uber also sold its AV division – to Aurora, a startup set up by a former Google AV research executive.

Lyft started its AV division in 2017, claiming at the time that by 2021 a majority of its rides would take place in self-driving vehicles. Spoiler alert: that hasn’t materialised.

Nevertheless, Lyft has launched a number of pilot projects in Las Vegas, where self-driving cars (with safety drivers on board) conducted tens of thousands of trips. The project was a collaboration with Aptiv through a company called Motional, a joint venture with Hyundai that Lyft is involved in.

In spite of initial optimism a few years ago, large-scale self-driving vehicle roll-out still seems far away, with none of the big players still willing to commit to any kind of timeline for full-scale commercialisation.

Toyota AV projects

Toyota, meanwhile, also started a series of self-driving and driver-assist projects of its own. In 2018, Toyota committed to invest $500 million in a joint self-driving project with Uber, but that deal fell through after Aurora acquired Uber’s AV division.

Toyota had plans to offer a limited AV ridehailing pilot in Tokyo as part of the 2020 Olympics, but that was delayed due to the global pandemic. The carmaker also started developing its Woven City on the site of a former car factory in Japan, where it can test self-driving vehicles, innovative street design, smart home technology, robotics and new mobility products.

In a statement, Toyota says the deal to acquire Lyft’s AV project will result in a dream team of approximately 1,200, representing one of the most diverse, well-resourced and talented groups in the field.

Woven Planet and Lyft have also agreed Woven Planet will use Lyft’s system and fleet data to “accelerate the safety and commercialisation of the automated-driving technology that Woven Planet will develop”.

Photo copyright: Shutterstock

Authored by: Benjamin Uyttebroeck