February 15, 2019
Companies across the world are racing to be the first to commercialize self-driving vehicles. From small, agile startups to large corporations with household names, it is a crowded market. Despite the large number of AV players, there is one that stands out of the crowd: Waymo. Waymo has a number of key features that make them the number one producer of self-driving vehicles.
Waymo was founded in 2009 as the Google self-driving car project, accruing autonomous miles years ahead of their main competitors. The company has since developed into a stand-alone subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. (Google’s parent company) and was renamed Waymo in 2016. Getting in early on the autonomous game means Waymo has consistently been first to reach self-driving milestones, such as 10 million driverless miles driven on public roads and the world’s inaugural commercial self-driving taxi service. What makes Waymo so successful in the AV market?
With the large financial backing of its parent company Alphabet, Waymo has emerged as the clear leader in the AV space. But money is not the only key to Waymo’s success. They also understand the importance of features that other companies have been slower to adopt.
Waymo has carefully developed, collected and analyzed autonomous vehicle data. Data strategies are emerging as a key component for any successful business plan, and this is especially true for autonomous driving companies: AV development depends on exposing the technology to as many different situations as possible, gathering data on how the AI responds and using it to improve the technology.
Instead of relying only on real-world data, Waymo tests vehicles in a virtual space with computer simulations. With 10 million miles driven in simulation every day, Waymo can collect data faster than competitors. This enables them to make responsive upgrades to their in-house technologies.
Another way that Waymo is saving costs and beating competitors is by designing and constructing their own autonomous technology. The sensors used by autonomous vehicles, such as LiDAR, can be extremely expensive; building them in-house greatly reduces costs. It also allows a deep integration with Waymo’s AI software, meaning that all components of the AV system are designed from the ground up to work together. The overall result is an efficient and advanced driverless system that rises above the competition.
Despite keeping their hardware and software development in-house, Waymo lacks the ability to produce its own vehicles, unlike other AV competitors such as Tesla and Ford. Waymo has been able to overcome this disadvantage by leveraging strong partnerships with companies who do produce vehicles. Waymo’s vehicle of choice is the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, and they have recently partnered with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to receive 62,000 more vehicles. A second partnership with Jaguar, for up to 20,000 new vehicles, will allow Waymo to produce high-end AVs aimed at the premium market. Waymo’s strategic parnerships do not stop there; agreements with companies like Avis and Walmart will allow more users to access and utilize Waymo’s vehicles, and will give Waymo a high-profile network for launching in new cities in the future.
The AV race is a crowded one. With big-name automakers, large technology companies and small startups all vying to be the first to market with a commercial driverless vehicle, the playing field is saturated. So far, Waymo is the clear standout in this race. An early adopter mentality, combined with strong financial backing, has allowed them to take this lead. But the following features are what keeps Waymo miles ahead:
The result is simple: unless a major disruption occurs, Waymo will likely be the first company to reach the AV market.
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Image Credits: Shutterstock / Sundry Photography
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