Rideshare giants walk away from autonomous

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Lyft developed self-driving technologies, testing vehicles such as the Ford Fusion, before selling its autonomous business to Toyota for $550 million.

June 14, 2021

© credit | Lyft

Uber and Lyft, the largest ridesharing companies in the United States, have abandoned plans to develop self-driving vehicle technologies in-house, selling their large, expensive research and development (R&D) operations to other companies.

Lyft sells autonomous division to Toyota

Toyota’s new high-tech subsidiary Woven Planet Holdings Inc. is buying Lyft’s self-driving division Level 5. Pairing Woven Planet’s engineers with resources at the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) and the Lyft acquisition, the automaker will have nearly 1,200 people studying how to apply autonomous technology to future vehicles.

Woven Planet will expand its footprint beyond its Tokyo headquarters, with offices and engineering teams in Palo Alto, California, and London, UK. In addition to the acquisition of Level 5, Woven Planet and Lyft have signed commercial agreements to use Lyft data.

Lyft will receive $550 million in cash: $200 million paid upfront and $350 million throughout the next five years. Though it never valued its autonomous division separately from its rideshare business, Lyft promoted its self-driving technology as its most valuable asset when it went public in 2019, raising more than $24 billion.

James Kuffner, CEO of Woven Planet, says, “Bringing Level 5’s world-class engineers and experts into the fold, as well as additional technology resources, will allow us to have even greater speed and impact.”


Uber exits autonomy in late 2020

In December, Uber sold its autonomous division to Aurora, a startup founded by former members of Google’s self-driving car unit. The companies didn’t announce the deal’s worth, but Uber will invest $400 million in Aurora.

“We’re shifting the landscape of the automated vehicle space,” says Chris Urmson, co-founder and CEO of Aurora. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will join Aurora’s board of directors.