AUSTIN/TOKYO -- Toyota will acquire Lyft's self-driving technology unit for $550 million, the companies said, as the Japanese automaker steps up its automation ambitions with its newly created Woven Planet division.
Woven Planet will take over the 300-plus employees of Lyft's so-called Level 5 division. The acquisition will provide Toyota access to the U.S. ride-hailing company's advanced autonomous driving technology.
Jody Kelman, Lyft’s director of product and program management for the self-driving platform, will stay at Lyft, joining its two dozen or so product managers and engineers in San Francisco focused on making the company’s platform accessible and ready to work with all self-driving cars.
The acquisition will give Toyota a direct presence in Silicon Valley and London and expand the Woven City smart-city project at the base of Japan's Mount Fuji, effectively helping it ride through dramatic changes expected in the mobility industry and major centers, Woven Planet CEO James Kuffner told reporters on Tuesday.
Toyota set up Woven Planet in January to develop connected-vehicle, autonomous and semi-autonomous driving technology. After the addition of the Lyft staffers, Woven Planet will consist of about 1,200 employees.
Kuffner said Woven Planet intends to continue investing and expanding the team, although he did not comment about any timeline or future acquisition plans.
Lyft said it had reached agreements with Woven Planet to share data that could help further the automated vehicles the unit is aiming to develop. Along with Lyft’s engineers and data scientists, Woven Planet will get access to mapping, route and other data from Lyft, as well as information from the high-powered sensors that are on Lyft’s fleet of more than 10,000 cars that it rents to drivers.