Ride share drivers won't be losing their jobs to self-driving cars anytime soon. Lyft is selling its autonomous vehicle (AV) division to Toyota subsidiary Woven Planet for $550 million, The Verge reported Monday. Experts say the move doesn't reflect Lyft giving up on self-driving vehicles entirely, but instead illustrates the company's hopes of profiting off other automakers' efforts.
The deal brings Lyft's expensive progress toward deploying its own self-driving fleet to a halt. It follows in the footsteps of rival company Uber, which last year sold its AV project to startup Aurora. The reason ride sharing apps are turning away from autonomous vehicles? First, safety challenges: a self-driving Uber car killed a pedestrian in 2018, and experts have acknowledged developing the safety technology has been more time consuming than expected. Second, money: Lyft would likely struggle to afford its planned AV armada, reports Reuters. Most notably, AV technology is not where companies thought it would be today. "Despite some technical successes, autonomous vehicles remain very far away from any kind of mass adoption," writes The Verge. Lyft previously projected that the majority of its trips would be in self-driving cars by 2021.
The Drive calls the Lyft-Toyota deal "shrewd," noting Lyft will focus on partnerships in which the automakers develop AV technology, rather than taking on that costly burden itself. And later, Lyft could reap the rewards.
"The big promises of automating drivers was never going to happen; it was always about stringing investors along with the next big plan," tweeted Paris Marx, host of the podcast Tech Won't Save Us. For now, ride sharing will continue to rely on human drivers — until technology catches up, they will remain crucial for services like driving during peak hours, through poor weather conditions, and in hard-to-navigate locations.