Fresh round of investment into self-driving division of Alphabet, to help grow Waymo and develop its autonomous driving tech
Waymo, the autonomous driving subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet, has raised another very healthy chunk of funding to fuel its operations going forward.
Waymo announced that it has raised a $2.5 billion investment round on Wednesday from a variety of investors including Alphabet itself, Andreessen Horowitz, AutoNation, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Silver Lake and many others.
The self-driving specialist said the funding would be used to develop its autonomous driving technology as well as expanding its team.
The latest funding round comes after Waymo previously raised $2.25 billion in its first external funding round in March 2020.
This new investment will be useful as Waymo had shut down all its ride-hailing services in early 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but began offering rides again as of 8 October 2020.
This came after the firm fitted its cars with barriers between the driver and passenger area as a safety barrier. Backup drivers are still used in expanded routes.
The fully driverless taxi option is limited to a mostly residential area that includes the Phoenix suburbs of Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa and Tempe.
Waymo’s intention for years has been to offer a commercial fully driverless ride-hailing service to the general public.
“With tens of millions of miles driven on public roads across 25 US cities, and tens of billions of miles driven in simulation, our experience has shown us, and our investors, the massive opportunity ahead,” said the firm. “We’re building and deploying the Waymo Driver to serve riders, deliver parcels, move freight, and eventually, to empower personal car ownership.”
It said that it was first company to operate a fully autonomous, public ride-hailing service – Waymo One, and it has served thousands of rider-only trips in Metro Phoenix.
It has also been driving in San Francisco and the Bay Area since it first started in 2009.
It is also exploring the autonomous movement of freight cross country via its delivery business unit, Waymo Via.
But it has not been all plain sailing for the firm of late, with the loss of revenues caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
There has also been criticismthe company is moving slower than expected toward commercialisation of its technology, and in April this year long-serving Waymo CEO John Krafcik departed the firm to “kick-off new adventures.”
Krafcik had led the company since 2005, and was replaced by Tekedra Mawakana, Waymo’s chief operating officer, and Dmitri Dolgov, the company’s chief technology officer, who will work together as co-CEOs going forward.
And then last month a Waymo taxi with no backup safety driver suffered a high profile incident when the car got confused and halted when it encountered a coned-off road.
And to make matters worse, when roadside assistance was dispatched, the confused Waymo vehicle drove off.
The Waymo vehicle eventually became stuck farther down the road, which was lined with construction cones, allowing the Waymo assistance driver to take over.