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Google’s Waymo self-drives its way to a $2.5B fundraise — and it's putting itself on the Map

Thursday, June 17, 2021 by Robinhood Snacks | Disclosures
_Don't try to backseat drive on this one [Westend61 via GettyImages]_

Don't try to backseat drive on this one [Westend61 via GettyImages]

Can't be a backseat driver... when there's no frontseat driver. Waymo is the self-driving vehicle startup that was born out of Google's "moonshot factory." Google’s most successful moonshot is still a money-loser — but not when it comes to venture cash:

  • Waymo just raised a massive $2.5B to advance its self-driving tech. It calls its system "The World's Most Experienced Driver," which no other company can say (because Waymo trademarked the phrase).
  • Billions in the rearview: Explains the déjà vu. In March last year, Waymo raised $2.2B in its first external fundraise (read: not just Google $$$).

Waymo money... still problems. Waymo has driven millions of miles on public roads across the US. But Waymo and other self-driving companies have been criticized for moving slower than expected with commercialization. GM's Cruise, Tesla, and even Apple are all working on fully self-driving vehicles — in 2019, Elon said that self-driving robotaxis would be ready... last year. As of this month, Waymo has a big wheel up over the competition:

  • Waymo One: Waymo's fully driverless taxi service can now be accessed through Google Maps, the same way you get routed to Uber’s app from Maps to book a ride. Think: distance, wait time, etc.
  • Far from Uber status: The service is only available in Phoenix, where the bulk of Waymo’s 600 robotaxis are running. Good luck finding One.
THE TAKEAWAY

Niche products need mainstream roads... Waymo has something that its biggest competitor Cruise doesn’t: a maps app with 1B+ users. By integrating Waymo into Maps alongside providers like Uber, Lyft, and Lime, Google can "mainstream-ify" robotaxis. It could compete on pricing with OG rides, and even integrate Waymo One directly into Maps to reduce friction (cue: potential antitrust issues). It could also weave Waymo into other parts of its biz — like: Google Pay and Google Home for seamless booking.