With GM, Lyft blindsides the startup world – and raises $1B

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Rideshare startup Lyft announced a $1 billion round Monday led by General Motors, money that will be invested in developing the world’s first self-driving taxi service.

With $500 million from lead investor General Motors, the news is a massive curveball for people watching the scene around self-driving vehicles (SDV). Other investors included the Saudi-owned Kingdom Holding Company, which contributed $100 million, Janus Capital Management, Rakuten, Didi Kuaidi, and Alibaba.

The investment will go toward the creation of a line of autonomous taxis, creating a convergence of two of the most buzzworthy industries in the startup universe.

“The joint development of a network of on-demand autonomous vehicles will leverage GM’s deep knowledge of autonomous technology and Lyft’s capabilities in providing a broad choice of ride-sharing services,” a press release stated.

Besides an “autonomous on-demand network” (their words), GM will let Lyft integrate company assets into their services, according to the GM blog. GM will become a “preferred provider of short-term” rental vehicles to Lyft drivers, Lyft drivers will have access to GM’s OnStar services, and there will be new personalized mobility services.

The announcement comes at the beginning of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which promises more news on SDV with a number of panels and other announcements from the likes of Volkswagen, Valeo, and a rumored partnership between Google and Ford for autonomous vehicles.

Panels on autonomous cars at CES will include Intelligent Transportation: Are We There Yet?, Automated Driving – Driven by the IoT!, What Drives the Self Driving Car Business?, Sensor Fusion and the Automated/Autonomous Car, and Quanergy: Autonomous Vehicles a Reality with Solid State LiDAR.

The news also catches followers of the sharing economy off guard after months of discussion around primary Lyft competitor Uber. While Uber has made pains to keep its numbers and holdings out of the public eye amid questions of the profitability of their business strategy, Lyft’s announcement indicates the company is diversifying and investing in the quality of their core business at the same time.

Featured Image Credit: Praiselightmedia / Creative Commons

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