Google already dominates the search engine world. Roads may well be next.
Alphabet’s Waymo unit is the clear leader in the race for autonomous driving leadership, according to a team of analysts at Wedbush. They estimate roughly a trillion dollars will be spent over the next decade to develop autonomous vehicles and other endeavors. The analyst team wrote in a note Thursday that autonomous driving technology will disrupt everything from automotives to freight and healthcare.
With Google CEO Sundar Pichai becoming chief executive of Alphabet (ticker: GOOG), they expect even more investment in Waymo to come. The firm suggests Pichai could double down on the so-called “moonshot project” and grow spending around Waymo in the next 12 to 18 months.
Trying to catch up to Alphabet’s Waymo unit are firms like Tesla, Uber, Lyft, DiDi, Zoox, as well as manufacturers like GM, Volkswagen, and Ford. The Wedbush team estimates Alphabet is spending nearly $1 billion a year on its self-driving fleet and technology, well ahead of Uber from a research and development perspective.
The Wedbush team notes that most of Waymo’s contribution to autonomous rideshare vehicles comes from a partnership with Lyft. Last year the company launched its own robot taxi service, Waymo One, which has carried 1,000 riders to school, work, or shopping in Phoenix.
“Waymo One rides are also all human supervised initially, and Waymo plans to continue to build out its reach to more consumers over time,” the analysts note.
Much of this testing is limited to warm, dry climates. The real test will be for these vehicles to drive safely in upstate New York during the winter.