Building viable businesses that use self-driving vehicles is certainly a costly endeavor, but new investment to the tune of $2.25 billion will go a long way in helping Waymo — one of the leaders in the field — reach its lofty goal.
The cash injection, announced by the company on Monday, March 2, comes as part of its first-ever external investment round. Contributors include Magna International, Andreessen Horowitz, AutoNation, as well as Waymo-owner Alphabet.
In a post detailing the funding, Waymo CEO John Krafcik noted that it comes following recent operational and technical achievements for the company, including more than 20 million miles of autonomous testing on public roads in more than 25 cities, and over 10 billion miles in simulation. Waymo Driver — the name of its autonomous-vehicle platform — is also continuing to give rides to paying customers in Arizona as part of ongoing trials of its Waymo One ridesharing service that it hopes to roll out more widely.
Waymo has also been testing its autonomous technology with big rigs in several states with the hope of using the equipment to launch a full-fledged freight transportation business. Delivery of groceries and packages using its driverless minivans is also a focus. Bringing all of its delivery services under roof, the company announced it is calling the unit Waymo Via.
Waymo started life as a Google project in 2009 before emerging as its own entity in 2016. In a media briefing on Monday reported by Reuters, Krafcik responded to questions about whether Alphabet might sell or spin off the company by saying that it was “certainly a possibility for the future.” He added that the latest investment is part of “an evolutionary path that we had always imagined” and which has the potential to result in more independence for Waymo.
“We’ve always approached our mission as a team sport, collaborating with our original equipment manufacturers and supplier partners, our operations partners, and the communities we serve to build and deploy the world’s most experienced driver,” Krafcik wrote in his post. “Today, we’re expanding that team, adding financial investors and important strategic partners who bring decades of experience investing in and supporting successful technology companies building transformative products.”
A slew of companies are working on their own autonomous-vehicle technology, with a study last year highlighting Waymo, GM Cruise, and Ford as the main three players in the race to launch large-scale commercial services using autonomous vehicles.
- Cruise AV drives over woman just after she was hit by another car
- An autonomous car in San Francisco got stuck in wet concrete
- Volkswagen is launching its own self-driving car testing program in the U.S.
- Waymo doubles service area for its robotaxi rides
- Autonomous cars confused by San Francisco’s fog