US ride-sharing company Lyft has sold its autonomous vehicle division to a subsidiary of Toyota for a hefty US$550million.
It has been confirmed that the Japanese car giant’s Woven Planet Holdings section will take over the Uber rival’s ‘Level 5’ self-driving division, with US$200million being paid up front and the remaining US$350million forked out in five years.
It is said that Woven Plant, which was set up in January, intends to continue growing and investing in its autonomous vehicle team but its plans for future acquisitions are being kept close to its chest.
"This is the first step of establishing and bringing together the people. Obviously building technology and product requires people, and that's much what this acquisition is about," Woven Planet chief executive James Kuffner told news association Reuters.
Toyota currently offers ‘Level 2’ automation with advanced driver assistance technology – where the vehicle can essentially control steering and acceleration/deceleration but a human being still sits in the driver’s seat and controls the vehicle.
This deal would mean a jump up to Level 5 technology – the highest level of vehicle autonomy where the car can basically pilot itself in all driving environments all the time, with no input or oversight from a human.
In addition to its acquisition of Lyft’s autonomous vehicle division this week, Toyota also has other self-driving projects on the go.
These include a joint venture with Japanese tech, energy and finance giant, SoftBank Corp, and a consortium with General Motors Co, suppliers and semiconductor companies.
It has also been working closely with other ride-hailing firms and owns a stake in top Chinese firm Didi Chuxing and Southeast Asia's Grab.
In 2018 it invested around US$500million in a deal to co-develop autonomous vehicles with Uber but transferred its stake when Uber sold its autonomous vehicle unit to car start-up, Aurora Innovation, in December.
Uber’s AV endeavour didn’t exactly pan out well, with the company making headlines across the globe when one of its autonomous test vehicles operating in the US struck and killed a pedestrian.
According to Reuters, Lyft said the sale allows it to refocus on its core business, removing US$100million in annual net operating costs, and off-load costly side projects after a tough year in 2020.
Earlier this year it was confirmed Aurora will team up with Toyota and supplier Denso Corp to develop vehicles for autonomous ride-hailing networks.
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