In the past 2010s, changes in self-driving car technology took off in a perceptible way around the world, and the industry leader in this area was undoubtedly Google-owned Waymo. Waymo recently received a $2.25 billion financing, which is also the first time Waymo has raised external financing since its spin-off from Google.
Google subsidiary Waymo to focus on developing self-driving cars
In 2009, Google 2 began to launch the self-driving car project, set up a team to collect street view data on a large scale, and build a map database. After a period of time, the legal license plate was obtained, and the urban road test was started. In 2016, the self-driving project was split and became an independent subsidiary, Waymo, focusing on research on self-driving projects, and jointly established the Safe Street Self-driving Alliance with Volvo, Ford, Lyft, and Uber.
Waymo has been in the field of developing self-driving technology for a long time. In the past, multiple self-driving car test reports issued by the California Department of Vehicles showed that Waymo is in an industry-leading position in the field of self-driving technology, and even has considerable advantages. In recent years, Waymo has obtained the certification documents of the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency of the United States and started the real-life car ride test.
Outside Institutional Shareholders in Waymo’s $2.25 Billion Funding
Silver Lake Capital has invested in many large enterprises, and Alibaba is one of them. This financing of Waymo is based on its strength as a global leader in the field of autonomous driving;
As a Canadian capital institution, CPPIB has entered Waymo’s board of directors through investment this time, and is likely to introduce autonomous driving travel services to Canada in the future.
Mubadala Investment Company and Saudi Public Investment Fund invested in Uber, a sovereign wealth fund of the same name. Both are investors of SoftBank Vision Fund, with strong financial strength. Most of the companies it looks at are industry leaders;
A16Z is a well-known venture capital institution in Silicon Valley. The investment list is basically star companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb and so on.
Autonomous ride-hailing services will be the best opportunity
The autonomous ride-hailing service is essentially Uber without a driver. It will be delivered by a fleet of driverless cars located in selected metropolitan areas that will follow predetermined routes to certain destinations. The autonomous driving technology used by these vehicles is based on LIDAR and high-definition maps that precisely position the vehicle on the map. Initially, there may be some restrictions on destinations and routes, but these add up quickly. Passengers will summon autonomous driving using an app similar to Uber (UBER.N) or Lyft (LYFT.O), which will identify whether the route is available.
The cost advantage of autonomous ride-hailing services over ride-sharing is clear. This is a classic case of technology, capital-intensive business models replacing labor-intensive models. The current price of a 7-mile trip for an autonomous ride-hailing service is about $8.75, half the price of today’s ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Didi, so autonomous rides could quickly capture market share.
Seeking Alpha predicts that there will be 30,000 autonomous ride-hailing vehicles in the U.S. in 2021. Based on 50 paid trips per day at about $8.75 per trip, operating 350 days a year, this valuation model looks at each autonomous ride-hailing vehicle. Ride-hailing vehicles are expected to generate approximately $150,000 in revenue annually, and the entire autonomous ride-hailing market in the United States will generate more than $4.5 billion in revenue.
This has led all the companies developing self-driving cars to change their strategies and now focus on developing self-driving cars for fleets offering self-driving rides, rather than developing self-driving cars for the retail market. Most of them also intend to introduce their own self-driving services, rather than sell fleets. The rollout of retail self-driving cars has been delayed until 2025 or later.
Waymo unveils next-generation self-driving system
The new system is not only technologically advanced, but also further reduces the cost of the sensor. Waymo will continue to put 20,000 vehicles in the next two years. In the new system, lidar is still the focus, and this time Waymo claims to have a 10-fold improvement in performance compared to the previous generation. In order to better mass production and reduce costs, Waymo integrates lidar. The new system is equipped with a total of two lidars, two on the roof. integrated into one. And it is fully capable of mid-to-long-range detection tasks. The new radar provides a 360-degree viewing angle, a bird’s-eye view of the size and distance of objects around the vehicle, and draws 3D images. The longest detection distance can reach 300 meters.
Whether it is night, super bright daytime, or extremely bad weather, the new generation of lidar can recognize objects normally, and can also enable autonomous trucks to detect objects 100 meters away on highways.
In addition to mid- and long-range lidars, short-range lidars are spread around the vehicle, providing better short-range spatial resolution and avoiding potential blind spots on complex roads. Waymo’s use of lidar sensors does not mean giving up visual sensors. The mainstream direction in the future is also a fusion solution, so Waymo also developed its own visual sensors.
According to the official website, 29 cameras are used on an I-PACE to assist lidar. Judging from the published picture, an environmental detection camera is added to the front wheel eyebrow of the vehicle. The core is to allow the car to more completely identify surrounding objects, so as to respond earlier and faster. The collection distance of the new camera sensor can reach more than 500 meters. data.
Commercialization of autonomous driving
In order to promote the commercialization of autonomous driving, Waymo also officially announced the Waymo Via project recently, which is aimed at autonomous driving logistics scenarios including short-distance and long-distance scenarios, and Waymo will vigorously increase the commercial implementation of autonomous driving in logistics scenarios in the next few months. .
Waymo will begin testing the Waymo Via self-driving truck on roads in two U.S. states. Vans equipped with Waymo’s technology stack will drive on a previously drawn map of driverless roads, which Waymo describes as focusing on “all forms of cargo delivery,” including short- and long-distance deliveries, from interstate to local delivery .
And Waymo is actively mapping Los Angeles, studying congestion, and expanding testing to highways between Orlando, Tampa, Fort Myers, and Miami in Florida. Pilot automated vehicle package delivery between Phoenix-area UPS stores and local UPS sorting facilities.
Demand for self-driving trucks is strong, with global sales expected to reach 6,700 units this year, totaling $54.23 billion, and will save the logistics and shipping industry $70 billion a year while boosting productivity by 30 percent. Apart from cost savings, manpower shortages are also partly driving this growth.
With Waymo self-driving 20 million miles on public roads in 25 cities and 10 billion miles in simulations, it’s clear that autonomous driving has begun its next wave.