Lyft is teaming up with Magna, a major automotive supplier, to build and deploy self-driving cars. It’s another example of the ride-hailing company hedging its bets by partnering with a wide array of automakers, suppliers, and tech startups as it seeks to make autonomous vehicles available on its app-based platform.
Magna, a Tier 1 auto parts producer, will be investing $200 million in Lyft as the two companies embark on a multi-year partnership to develop self-driving systems that can be manufactured at scale, executives announced today. The autonomous vehicles that Lyft and Magna will be working together to build will be Level 4, meaning they will be able to operate without any human intervention within the car’s normal operating parameters.
For Lyft, this is part of a larger play to “democratize” autonomous driving
Magna brings a lot to the table with Lyft in this partnership. The Canadian company earned $38 billion in revenue last year and has a market value of $19 billion. It is also a member of a consortium including BMW, Mobileye, and Intel to develop a self-driving vehicle platform for automakers by 2020. The company builds a variety of auto parts and in-car technology, from mirrors to powertrains to advanced driver assist systems. Magna’s major customers include Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW, and Toyota.
Magna’s $200 million investment in Lyft is part of the $1 billion round of financing led by Google’s CapitalG, which values Lyft at $11.7 billion.
For Lyft, this is part of a larger play to “democratize” autonomous driving, according to Logan Green, the company’s CEO. Today, ride-sharing only accounts for less than 1 percent of all vehicle miles traveled; Green wants to see that increase to 80 percent. The key to making that happen, he says, is self-driving cars. And by partnering with Magna, Lyft will be able to “plug in” its autonomous driving tech into any of the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) that work with the supplier.
“We don’t want just one or two companies out there in the world to have access to self-driving technology,” said Green. “We want every single OEM to be able to make self-driving vehicles, and we want those vehicles to be able to operate on the Lyft network.”
For a while, it seemed as if Lyft was satisfied to remain the go-to ride-hailing network for other companies’ self-driving cars. The company had partnerships with a wide breadth of leading manufacturers, including Waymo, GM, Jaguar-Land Rover, Ford, NuTonomy, Aptiv, and Drive.ai. But last July, the company announced it would invest in building its own “full stack” of hardware and software for self-driving cars. It opened a brand-new 50,000-square-foot engineering facility in Palo Alto to house its new engineering team led by former Google Maps wiz Luc Vincent.
Lyft’s moves stand in contrast to its main rival Uber
Lyft’s moves in the autonomous driving space stand in contrast to its main rival Uber, which used its high valuation and huge amounts of capital to aggressively expand its own self-driving activities — often with clumsy results. In 2016, Uber acquired the self-driving truck startup Otto, sparking a protracted legal battle with Alphabet’s Waymo over trade secrets. That lawsuit was recently settled, and Uber has since attempted to put that stumble behind it as it continues to test its self-driving cars and trucks in Pittsburgh, Arizona, and San Francisco.
Neither Lyft nor Magna would say when they expect the first, co-manufactured autonomous vehicles to hit the road. Lyft is currently piggybacking on self-driving cars built by Aptiv, an offshoot of supplier Delphi, and startup NuTonomy. The company recently announced plans to begin testing its own, in-house produced autonomous vehicles at a massive ex-military base turned autonomous-vehicle-proving ground northeast of San Francisco called the GoMentum Station.