Technology

GM helps Lyft raise $1 billion, and they plan a network of self-driving cars

On-demand transportation company Lyft raised $1 billion in a Series F round of funding, with $500 million coming from General Motors, the San Francisco company announced Monday.

The 3-year-old company is now valued at $5.5 billion, up from a previous valuation of $2.5 billion.

Kingdom Holding Co. and its affiliates invested $250 million, and investors such as Janus Capital Management, Rakuten, Alibaba and Didi Kuaidi completed the round.

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In addition to the injection of cash, GM will take a seat on Lyft’s board, and the two companies will create an Autonomous On-Demand Network that will enable people to book a self-driving car in the way they currently hail an Uber or Lyft ride. The partnership will leverage GM’s autonomous vehicle development and Lyft’s ride-matching, routing and payments software.

“We see the future of personal mobility as connected, seamless and autonomous,” GM President Dan Ammann said in a prepared statement. “With GM and Lyft working together, we believe we can successfully implement this vision more rapidly.”

Although self-driving cars could still be a ways off, the investment is a clear indicator that the transportation industry believes autonomous vehicles will play a big role in the future. 

Google, Mercedes-Benz and Audi are among the companies to invest in autonomous car development. Lyft’s main competitor, Uber, has opened a robotics research center in Pittsburgh to research autonomy technology.

In a recent interview with The Times, Lyft President and co-founder John Zimmer said he thinks that in the future, there will be shared autonomous vehicles.

“There could be a movie theater on wheels for long trips,” he said, “or a sports bar on wheels on your way home from work, or a family Lyft for your trip to Tahoe.”

“You’ll have access to all these kinds of vehicles, you’ll order it on Lyft, and it’ll be just a few dollars for a short trip in the city,” he said.

The new funds will be used primarily in the U.S. to grow Lyft's driver and customer base, Zimmer said.

Twitter: @traceylien

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