Ride-sharing company Lyft has sold its autonomous vehicle unit to Toyota's Woven Planet for $ 550 million. The deal represented the latest in a string of acquisitions spurred by the cost and long timelines to commercialize autonomous auto technology.
Under the acquisition agreement, Lyft's so-called Level 5 division is to be merged into the Woven Planet. Lyft receives $ 550 million in cash, with $ 200 million paid upfront, and the remaining $ 350 million is paid out over five years.
About 300 people are integrated into the Lyft Level 5 division of the Woven Planet, and the Level 5 team, which in early 2020 numbered more than 400, continues to operate from its office in Palo Alto, California. The deal officially ends Lyft's nearly four-year effort to develop its self-driving cars.
The company is tracking rival Uber, which last year sold its autonomous car division to Aurora in an effort to stop losing money. Lyft is dedicated to becoming the passenger ride-sharing network and fleet management platform used by all commercial robotic taxi services.
Lyft has partnerships with independent car developers, notably the $ 4 billion Hyundai-Aptiv joint venture known as Motional, as well as Waymo. As part of the acquisition agreement, Woven Planet signed commercial agreements to use Lyft's platform and fleet data.
Lyft said, the agreement with Woven Planet is not exclusive, and continues its partnership with Motional and others.
Motional and Lyft have collaborated for more than three years, and began the collaboration with a one-week pilot program to offer rides in autonomous vehicles across the Lyft network in Las Vegas during the 2018 CES tech trade show.
This temporary trial, which always included a human driver for safety, was extended and still exists today, and as of February 2020, the program has offered more than 100,000 self-driving, paid rides in Motional autonomous vehicles.
Motional in December announced plans to launch fully automated driverless taxi services in major US cities in 2023 using Lyft's ride-sharing network.
Despite some technical successes, autonomous vehicles are still a long way from any kind of mass adoption, and most vehicles on the road today are still experimental vehicles, with most of the major players refusing to stick to a marketing timeline.