- Both General Motors (GM) and Waymo have made moves to boost their autonomous vehicle (AV) projects in recent days.
- GM announced a $2.25 billion infusion into its self-driving car Cruise by SoftBank Vision Fund, a technology investment firm, with GM to invest an extra $1.1 billion when the deal closes.
- The same day, Waymo announced Fiat Chrysler would supply Waymo's AV fleet with 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica minivans.
With these simultaneous moves, the AV arms race continues to heat up as various companies seek to be the first to roll out their products on public roads. And these companies continue to push forward despite recent incidents involving AVs, including the death of a pedestrian struck by an Uber-owned vehicle in Tempe, AZ. The accident was blamed on the car’s software which identified a woman crossing the street but failed to engage its brakes.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of this development is Waymo’s announcement that it is beginning discussions about licensing its AV technology that consumers can buy. Later this year, Waymo plans to launch the world’s first AV ride-hailing service, but making the technology more widely available to everyday car-buyers would represent an enormous step towards making AVs widely available.
Not to be outdone, GM noted this investment will help what it described as the “company’s plans to commercialize AV technology at large scale.”
Our goal is to build the world's most experienced driver & make self-driving technology available across a range of vehicle platforms to make our roads safer. Excited about our growing partnership with FCA! https://t.co/l53nCkd8n2— John Krafcik (@johnkrafcik) May 31, 2018
In their respective announcements, both played up how much progress has been made in advancing their AV technology. Sergio Marchionne, CEO at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, said in a statement the partnership with Waymo will help to "drive innovative technology to the forefront." Meanwhile, SoftBank Investment Advisors managing partner Michael Ronen said in a statement that GM has made “significant progress” on what is a "historic transformation of the automobile industry."
Companies across the country are continuing to flex their muscles when it comes to AVs, whether it be the likes of Tesla floating the idea of a ride-sharing network of its own or Lyft testing AVs in California. In such a fragmented industry with all the big players competing hard against one another, the race is on to not only be the first but to be the safest and most efficient, lest cities follow in Boston’s lead and pause public testing or prevent full adoption.