Waymo – Google’s way forward

Google has been one of the pioneers in autonomous driving technologies. The company’s self-driving ambitions have given birth to Waymo, a self-driving technology company. Waymo has Google’s vast data reserve to leverage. The search giant started with a self-driving car program in 2009, since then the company has accumulated over two million miles of self-driving data on the road and over one billion miles in simulations. The data accumulated is equivalent to 300 years of human driving. The mountain of data gives the edge to Waymo over its rivals from technology as well as automobile companies.

The automobile industry is experiencing disruptive changes after the launch of transportation companies like Uber, Lyft and Didi Chuxing. Consumers are more likely to use these services to avoid the hassles of owning a car. Riding the wave of change, Google too will position Waymo as a transportation service company. Like Android, Google will be providing only the software part of the vehicle setup and the actual vehicle will come from Fiat Chrysler, both the companies signed a partnership earlier in the year to facilitate this.

With the advent of autonomous driving the passenger will be free to engage in other activity. Google will be able to push its advertisement services, the biggest money maker for the company with its self-driving rides. The vehicle will eventually become a place to work, for entertainment and for communication, as the car provides a good level of privacy within the cabin. The environment is likely to be a focused personalized space with greater attention span of riders as compared to that on a social networking platform like Facebook or Twitter. Google can reach out to much more targeted audience with new data being collected by the vehicle itself like location, content usage data and travel patterns.

Challenges and Opportunity

To put things in perspective for Google, more than 100 million trips are taken through ride hailing services across the globe. Uber alone is valued at $66 billion; more than the valuation of conventional automobile players like GM and Ford.

This shows the opportunity that Waymo is chasing. And to achieve its goals the company has access to vast resources thanks to its parent company. Google Android, Google Maps, Google Ads are some of the products that will find direct application in the company’s expansion. Fiat Chrysler will also gain from the partnership as it will get to supply its vehicles to Waymo. In future, we will see more diverse vehicle portfolio by Waymo as other automobile players are likely to partner with it to supply vehicles.

On the other side, the likes of Uber, Lyft and other startups are getting aggressive in the self-driving space and gearing up for the autonomous era. NuTonomy, a tech startup from Singapore has already started testing autonomous taxis services to test its capabilities. In the US alone, where more than a million rides are taken per day, Uber has over 85% of market share. Waymo will have the disadvantage of entering this market late and it will be crucial how Google will tackle the task of expansion outside US, something Uber has been able to do in a commendable way. China, the biggest consumer market remains a problem child for Google and the company will miss out a on a huge chunk of the ride hailing market. Uber has been able to resolve the China problem with a partnership with Didi Chuxing. Waymo must look for a collaborative model as well if it wants to have any sort of base in China.