Lyft sells Level 5 self-driving unit to Toyota subsidiary for $550M

Lyft is selling its self-driving division, Level 5, to Woven Planet Holdings, a subsidiary of Toyota Motor, for $550 million following Uber's similar move late last year.

Woven Planet is paying $200 million up front and $350 million over five years, according to a statement released Monday. About 300 data scientists and engineers will move from Level 5 to Woven Planet. In addition, Lyft’s Open Platform team of about 20 workers will become the new Lyft Autonomous team.

The pandemic hurt both Lyft and Uber with fewer customers for their ride-hailing operations. Lyft said the sale would save it $100 million in operating expenses and move it closer to profitability overall, reaching a profitable basis in the third quarter instead of the fourth quarter.

Toyota had invested $500 million in Uber in 2018, as both companies worked on autonomous vehicle development. Then in December, Aurora Innovation bought Uber’s autonomous unit and later announced it was partnering with Toyota and Denso Corp. to develop vehicles for autonomous ride-hailing networks.

Alongside the acquisition of Level 5, Woven Plant and Lyft signed a commercial agreement for the use of Lyft’s system and fleet data to improve the safety and commercialization of the automated vehicles that Woven Planet develops.

Lyft CEO Logan Green said the new Lyft Autonomous will combine the Lyft hybrid network, marketplace engine and fleet management to help autonomous vehicle partners grow deployment at the lowest cost per mile. “We look forward to continue to partner with the best autonomous vehicle companies to bring this technology to market,” he said in a statement.

Lyft Autonomous will become part of Lyft’s fleet division, which has more than 10,000 vehicles for Lyft Rentals for riders and Express Drive for drivers as well as Lyft’s vehicle service centers in North America. Lyft’s fleet division is transitioning to 100% electric vehicles on the Lyft network by 2030, according to a Lyft fact sheet.

Lyft was founded in 2012 and introduced the first self-driving cars on the Lyft network in a tech demo in Boston in December 2017 with nuTonomy, now Motional. In December Lyft announced a deal with Motional to launch driverless vehicles in multiple cities starting in 2023 on the Lyft network.

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