Late last year, Waymo One launched as a self-driving car service in Phoenix after nine years of development. The Alphabet division still has a long rollout ahead of it, but it can begin recouping R&D costs. A new report today details how Waymo is looking for outside investors.
According to The Information, Waymo is in talks to raise outside capital to limit how much Alphabet has to spend. That number is currently pegged at $1 billion annually according to people in today’s report. For the past several years, financial tightening has been a common theme at the parent company.
In February, Waymo was reportedly in talks with the Renault-Nissan Alliance on a self-driving partnership, while today’s article notes discussions with Volkswagen and other European carmakers for external funding, which is not expected to exceed a 20% stake.
Besides reducing Alphabet’s costs, an investment would result in a new valuation for Waymo that reflects a lead in the self-driving space. General Motor’s Cruise — usually second in autonomous metrics — is today valued at $15 billion, with Waymo hoping for a figure “at least several times” that, according to The Information. For comparison, Tesla’s market cap is currently $50.25 billion, while GM proper is at $54.43 billion.
In the near future, Waymo has to expand the fleet before it can bring its self-driving Lyft/Uber competitor to other parts of the country. It ordered thousands of the electric minivans last January, and expanded that figure to 62,000 in May. It also announced plans for a Michigan factory to retrofit the Chrysler and Jaguar I-Pace vehicles with autonomous components.
Meanwhile, other roads to monetization beyond a consumer service include a self-driving truck for commercial transport, partnering with companies to chauffeur passengers around, and as a last-mile solution for public transportation. Waymo has also discussed selling self-driving tech to Fiat Chrysler in vehicles that consumers can buy, while Uber has expressed interest in adding autonomous cars to its network.
Just last week, Waymo announced that it would sell custom-built LIDAR to robotics and security customers “outside” of the AV space. This helps reduce the manufacturing cost of the sensor that helps cars “see” the world.