For the past four years, Lyft has been developing and deploying self-driving cars. Now, the company has sold its autonomous car division to a Toyota subsidiary for $550 million.
Woven Planet Holdings will acquire Lyft’s self-driving division, Level 5. Toyota provided $200 million of the agreed-upon amount up front, and the rest of the $350 million will be paid out over the next five years. Lyft’s selling of the division will save the company an estimated $100 million of non-GAAP expenses.
While the deal has been announced, it will not close until the end of 2021’s third quarter. When the deal does close, Toyota plans to use Lyft’s fleet data and platform for a commercial service that will be launched under its Woven Planet subsidiary.
When Lyft launched its rideshare division in 2017, it boldly claimed that most of its rides would take place in self-driving cars by 2021. To accomplish that, the company hired hundreds of engineers to staff a large facility in Palo Alto. In 2018, the company acquired the UK-based augmented reality startup Blue Vision Labs in an attempt to accelerate its efforts.
While Lyft’s project was productive, it remained small-scale and did not reach the company’s prediction. While there are some technical successes, the fact remains that autonomous vehicles are still exceedingly far away from any type of mass adoption. The majority of self-driving cars on the road today are still test vehicles.
While companies like Uber and Lyft made headlines for their autonomous vehicle aspirations, Toyota has kept its self-driving car plans fairly private. The automaker has released some information about its test vehicles and the types of sensors it’s using, but few cars have been seen in operation.
Toyota has two self-driving products. The first, Chauffeur, is self-driving software. The second, Guardian, is an advanced driver-assist system that’s similar to Tesla’s Autopilot. It’s unclear when either will be offered in any production car today. Tests, however, are being conducted by the Toyota Research Institute at the Ottawa Lake, Michigan closed-course facility for a number of years.
In addition to that facility in the United States, Toyota established its Woven City in Japan. This 175-acre site of a former car factory could become a prototype city of the future where the company can test autonomous vehicles, innovative street designs, smart home technology, robotics, and more on a population of real people who would live there full time.