Lyft is forging full-force ahead with its self-driving car technology.
On Wednesday, the ride-hailing company said it had formed a partnership with Magna, the largest auto parts supplier in North America. Under the collaboration, the companies will co-fund, jointly develop and manufacture autonomous vehicle systems. The goal is to create self-driving technology that's available to all car manufacturers.
"Together with Magna, we will accelerate the introduction of self-driving vehicles by sharing our technology with automotive [original equipment manufacturers] worldwide," Lyft CEO Logan Green said in a statement. "This is an entirely new approach that will democratize access to this transformative technology."
As part of the agreement, Magna is also investing $200 million in Lyft equity. This bumps up Lyft's estimated valuation (as a not-yet-public company) from $11.5 billion to $11.7 billion.
Lyft is a bit late to the self-driving game. Its rival Uber has been working on its own autonomous vehicles for more than two years and has its own testing facility in Pittsburgh. Other technology and auto industry giants, like Google, Apple, Tesla, Ford, Honda and BMW, have also launched driverless car projects of their own.
But Lyft seems determined to catch up. It's partnered with several companies working on self-driving car tech, such as Nutonomy, Ford, General Motors, Drive.ai and Waymo (Google's self-driving spin-off). It's also opened its own hardware and software engineering facility in Silicon Valley, called Level 5, that's dedicated to autonomous vehicle development.
Fusing ride-hailing with self-driving cars is something Lyft, Uber and Waymo are all working on. The companies say this could lead to a future where fewer people own cars and instead just catch rides -- meaning less traffic and congestion. It would also mean cutting out the biggest cost of ride-hailing: drivers.
For its partnership with Magna, Lyft will take the lead on development and Magna will focus on manufacturing. But both companies will have team members working side-by-side at Level 5 on hardware, software, safety and design for manufacturing. The two companies will share the intellectual property they create.
Magna is well-placed to spread self-driving tech across the entire automotive industry. It's a Tier 1 manufacturing company, which means it works throughout the industry's ecosystem supplying parts directly to automakers. It manufactures everything from seats to rearview mirrors to entire vehicles for customers such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Once the companies' partnership gets regulatory approval, they'll begin work on tech for Level 4 autonomy, which means a car can operate in some situations without human input. Then they'll move on to Level 5, which is full automation. The companies didn't give a timeline on when they plan to unveil their upcoming technology, but they did say it should be market-ready within the next few years.
"The ultimate goal is to build the world's best Level 5 system and democratize this self-driving technology," Green said in a press call on Wednesday. "Self-driving vehicles are going to be the key to unlock this next chapter in our history."
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