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Toyota-owned Woven Planet acquires Lyft's Level 5 self-driving division

The two plan to build a dream team of developers and speed up autonomous vehicle development.

Lyft's Level 5 division and Toyota's Woven Planet are joining forces.

The world of self-driving car developers is complicated enough as it is, but when you add in the endlessly intertwined network of companies and subsidiaries and acquisitions and partnerships and so on, it gets positively brain-bending.

Still, it's big news when two prominent companies hop into bed together, and that's just what Lyft's self-driving car arm, Level 5, and the Toyota-owned Woven Planet are doing with the idea of accelerating the development of autonomous vehicles. Woven Planet bought Level 5 for the tidy sum of $550 million, the company announced Monday.

Woven Planet is a relatively new venture, and this Level 5 acquisition is its first big deal. With Level 5 under its belt, though, it's likely to make a much bigger name for itself. The company will have offices in Tokyo, London and Palo Alto, California, with more than 1,200 employees and a big, fat bankroll to boot.

"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," said James Kuffner, CEO of Woven Planet. "This deal will be key in weaving together the people, resources, and infrastructure that will help us to transform the world we live in through mobility technologies that can bring about a happier, safer future for us all."

"Weaving together." We see what you did there.

So, what does this mean in practical terms? To start, it means that Woven Planet will get to use a whole bunch of Lyft's data. That could be a huge leg up, given the diversity and size of Lyft's fleet of gig economy drivers. Building a giant dataset like that from scratch would take a ton of time and money, and it's critical for training AI.

Will we be seeing autonomous Lyfts on our roads in the near future? Probably not, but maybe it's less far off now than we previously thought.

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