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Why Jaguar Land Rover Took a Stake in Lyft: Self-Driving

By John Rosevear – Jun 13, 2017 at 7:15PM

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In exchange for a $25 million investment, Lyft will give the British luxury-car maker a way to test its latest technology.

The mobility-tech arm of British luxury-vehicle maker Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) said it has invested $25 million in ride-hailing company Lyft. JLR and Lyft will partner on a series of ventures, including JLR's autonomous-vehicle development effort.  

What Jaguar Land Rover and Lyft said about the deal

The announcement was made by JLR's "mobility services" business, called InMotion Ventures. InMotion said its $25 million investment will "support Lyft's expansion and technology plans," while giving JLR an opportunity to test its self-driving vehicles in the Lyft service. 

The interior of a Land Rover with a Lyft sign visible.

Image source: Jaguar Land Rover

InMotion also said JLR will make Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles available to Lyft drivers, though no details were given. 

JLR executives said the partnership would give the company a "real-world platform" as it works to develop connected and self-driving vehicle systems and described it as a "strategic investment." InMotion's managing director Sebastian Peck had this to say:

"We are excited to collaborate with a leading platform like Lyft not only on developing premium mobility solutions but also devising innovative solutions to the transport problems Jaguar Land Rover's customers face.

"Personal mobility and smart transportation is evolving and this new collaborative venture will provide a real-world platform helping us develop our connected and autonomous services."

InMotion said its investment in Lyft was part of Lyft's latest funding round, which closed in April. 

What it means for JLR

JLR, which is owned by Indian automaker Tata Motors (TTM), lacks the scale of its larger German luxury-car rivals -- but it will need to keep pace with them as more advanced technology begins to come to market. For a modest investment, JLR gets a high-profile partnership that will allow it to test and refine its self-driving and connected-car systems in real-world service in urban environments.

A Jaguar test vehicle shown on a roadway next to an ambulance.

JLR began testing its self-driving and connected-car systems on roads in the U.K. last year. Image source: Jaguar Land Rover.

What it means for Lyft

For Lyft, It's the latest in a fast-growing list of partnerships with automakers and tech companies working on self-driving cars. JLR joins General Motors (GM -0.05%), Alphabet's (GOOG 1.56%) (GOOGL 1.61%) Waymo subsidiary, and self-driving software start-up nuTonomy as "partners" of the fast-growing ride-hailing company.

Of course, JLR's commitment to Lyft is on a very different scale from GM's. The General invested $500 million in Lyft early in 2016, getting a 9% stake in the company and a seat on its board. This deal with JLR is much smaller, but like its deals with Waymo and nuTonomy, it will give Lyft a chance to kick the tires on another self-driving development effort. 

It's also a way to bring some distinctive high-end vehicles into Lyft's fleets, presumably on terms that are favorable for its drivers. We'll presumably hear more about that in the not-too-distant future.

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. John Rosevear owns shares of General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares) and Alphabet (C shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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