Posted on Apr 27, 2021 at 9:00 AMUpdated Apr 27, 2021, 2:15 PM
This is the “first major agreement” concluded by Woven Planet, the Toyota subsidiary responsible for innovation. The Japanese automobile giant has decided to buy out, for 550 million dollars (approximately 445 million euros), the autonomous vehicles division of the American VTC platform Lyft. Some $ 200 million will be prepaid, the remaining $ 350 million will be spread over five years.
Level 5, this is the name of this acquisition, has 300 employees. It will be integrated into Woven Planet Holding, a Toyota entity that must decompartmentalize research and development in related sectors such as autonomous vehicles, robotics and smart cities.
A growing entity at Toyota
After starting its operational activity in early 2021, Woven Planet must set up a team of 1,200 people in autonomous driving technologies in Japan, the United States and Great Britain. The acquisition of Level 5 ” advance our project to develop the safest mobility in the world “, hailed Woven Planet boss James Kuffner. It should be finalized in the third quarter of this year.
Woven Planet is currently developing its flagship project, “Woven City”, which was launched in February. This city-laboratory, built on the site of a disused Toyota factory at the foot of Mount Fuji in Japan, should make it possible to create and test technologies in real life. Within four to five years, around 360 engineers and inventors are expected to form the first group of residents of Woven City, a spokesperson for Woven Planet told AFP.
Toyota weaves its web in autonomous vehicles
A month ago, Toyota had already announced an acquisition with its subsidiary Hino of 4.6% of Isuzu, a Japanese group specializing in commercial vehicles and pick-ups. The creation of a new entity, called “Commercial Japan Partnership Technologies Corp. ”, Should allow the development of more connected and autonomous commercial vehicles.
Uber, Lyft’s big competitor in the United States, also sold at the end of 2020 its autonomous driving technologies division, taken over by a start-up in Silicon Valley, Aurora Innovation. The two rivals, who continue to rack up losses and suffer greatly from the pandemic, realized that they did not have the financial means to maintain themselves units spending fortunes to develop empowerment technologies that will put years of generating profits. They therefore cede their research to manufacturers with whom they wish to build partnerships later.
Last February, Aurora Innovation signed an agreement with Toyota and its major equipment manufacturer Denso to equip, by the end of the year, a fleet of Sienna minivans with its latest generation of autonomous driving systems. Thanks to these transfers, Uber and Lyft can hope to balance their accounts more quickly and thus reassure their investors. After the announcement of its agreement with Toyota, Lyft also indicated that it hoped to generate in the third quarter of 2021 the first profits in its history, which began nine years ago.