Google still Owns the Robo-Taxi Future
Robots you can drive my car! Waymo One isn't dead, launches in Phoenix and plans for Los Angeles
After over $100 Billion spend in autonomous driving, Robo-taxis still seem far far away. Not exactly what we had hoped for as 2023 rolls around soon. Let’s try to take stock of this.
Ford and Volkswagen invested billions into the company and will snap up Argo AI's tech. Even Lyft took a nearly $136 million hit by the failing of Argo AI being shut down about three weeks ago.
Robo-taxis don’t have the same level of hype in 2022, the mood is bearish. Argo AI, an autonomous vehicle startup that burst on the scene in 2017 stacked with a $1 billion investment, is shutting down — its parts being absorbed into its two main backers: Ford and VW, according to people familiar with the matter.
This as Intel’s Mobileye went IPO again. MBLY 0.00%↑ is somehow trading at $30 and a market valuation of $24.16 Billion. Which of course, does not make sense even as one of the few leaders left.
Google’s Waymo One is not giving up by the way. Waymo, a fully autonomous ride-hailing service is making its official debut for all riders in downtown Phoenix. The cars had been available for trusted testers in the downtown area and after millions of miles tested in real life, and in simulation, they are all set for the public.
Ford said it recorded a $2.7 billion non-cash, pretax impairment on its investment in Argo AI, resulting in an $827 million net loss for the third quarter. It’s doubtful GM’s cruise experiment is going well. Aurora Technologies and GM’s Cruise likely have to be acquired or disbanded soon, would be my best guess. Amazon is a likely buyer for Aurora technologies or maybe Apple.
What’s happening is a brutal shakeout among companies trying to monetize a new technology. Money poured into startups during bubbly days before and during the pandemic. While robots have had a great year of adoption in 2022, robo-taxis are spectacularly absent as the tech fails to mature at a decent clip amidst unpredictable humans and so many variables of uncertainty for full-autonomy to be practical.
The sudden shuttering of autonomous vehicle company Argo AI was received poorly and as proof that the industry was hyped in an unrealistic way in recent years. Meanwhile China and the U.S. still have many pilots on-going in the area of self-driving taxis and trucks. It’s too soon to say that Robo-taxis aren’t coming at all.
Waymo One is opening up to the public in downtown Phoenix without any autonomous specialists behind the wheel. The autonomous, paid ride-hailing service is available around the clock to anyone who downloads Waymo’s app.
Google’s Waymo still has the most experience and is crawling along for the long-game. It’s a seductive future even as the tech plods along, a mere shadow of the hype of a few years ago.
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