Lyft sells its self-driving division as it moves away from autonomous vehicles

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There are only a couple of self-driving initiatives left

Lyft has decided it’s going to play things safe going forward. The rideshare company is getting out of the self-driving business altogether and is selling its autonomous division -- Level 5 -- to Woven Planet, a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corporation. The deal will net the company around a half-billion dollars. 

The company will still keep a toe in the self-driving water. Under the buy-sell agreement, Lyft and Woven Planet will continue to work together on the development and safety of automated driving technology.

“Today’s announcement launches Lyft into the next phase of an incredible journey to bring our mission to life,” Lyft Co-Founder and CEO Logan Green said. “Lyft has spent nine years building a transportation network that is uniquely capable of scaling AVs. This partnership between Woven Planet and Lyft represents a major step forward for autonomous vehicle technology.”

Toyota is the perfect landing spot for Level 5. As of November 2020, Toyota owned 521 autonomous driving patents in the U.S. -- the most of any automaker. 

Even the best-laid plans don’t always work

When Lyft announced its self-driving project in 2017, everyone in the self-driving world was wearing rose-colored glasses -- especially Lyft President John Zimmer. He predicted that a majority of Lyft rides would be done in self-driving vehicles by 2021.

That prophecy never happened, but it can’t be said that Lyft didn’t give self-driving cars a shot. It acquired an augmented reality start-up to help improve its chances, partnered with Google’s Waymo to offer rides in self-driving minivans, and even hired a former associate administrator of vehicle safety research at the U.S. Department of Transportation to help gain some ground.

Is there anyone left in the self-driving game?

With both Uber and Lyft out of the self-driving game, the viable spread of the technology is shrinking fast. Other than the small taxi service that Waymo has in Phoenix, there are no major companies chasing the idea of transporting passengers without a driver at the moment.

However, that could all change. Zoox, a robotaxi start-up that’s trying its hand at things like a self-driving pizza delivery service, was acquired by Amazon for more than $1 billion in late 2020. When the acquisition was announced, Zoox CEO Aicha Evans said Amazon’s purchase would allow the company to have an even greater opportunity to realize a fully autonomous future.

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