Waymo’s been expanding, and usage of the company’s robotaxis has been growing steadily, but, honestly, it’s all been happening a bit slowly. That’s been the investment/financial critique of the company, that it can’t scale up quickly, easily, or profitably. An investment case is hard to make if there’s no clear way a company or technology can reach the economies of scale necessary to break even financially and then start raking in the profits.
However, like Cruise (which uses a similar technological approach to robotaxis), Waymo has been surviving and growing. Now, its most recent news offers a big test on the potential for fast growth and true scaling up. Waymo is partnering with Uber. With the broad, high-volume use of Uber around the United States (and other places in the world), we could find out if Waymo does indeed have the potential to finally start making a big impact.
Uber has scale and wants robotaxis. Waymo has robotaxis and wants scale. It’s a match made in app heaven. “Since both companies were founded in 2009, Waymo and Uber have in their own ways each revolutionized access to mobility. Now, we’re partnering to bring together Waymo’s world-leading autonomous driving technology with the massive scale of Uber’s ridesharing and delivery networks,” Uber writes. It’s funny to think about, because they have both been revolutionary, but in very different ways. The one that has clearly had less impact to date, though, is Waymo. Uber has led to taxi driver strikes, protests, and various kinds of new legislation from California to the UK. Waymo is running some driverless taxis in a few small pockets of the US. But Waymo × Uber? Well, that could be something.
Now, we can’t jump ahead too far yet. We don’t know how expansive this partnership will be. To start, they are collaborating in Phoenix, where’s Waymo’s rather limited (but still industry leading and groundbreaking) robotaxi service started. Later in 2023, Waymo robotaxis will be hailable (I’m not sure that’s a word) for either human transport or to transport food to your home, place of work, or secret hideout.
While I have repeatedly pointed out that Waymo isn’t available far and wide, we should perhaps take note that the Phoenix area where Uber and Waymo will start teaming up does hold a record. “At over 180 square miles, Waymo’s Phoenix operations are currently the largest fully autonomous service area in the world,” Uber writes. This is after a recent doubling of Waymo’s service territory in the Phoenix metro area.
Here are some more fluffy words of heartwarming hope on the new partnership from Tekedra Mawakana, co-CEO of Waymo: “We’re excited to offer another way for people to experience the enjoyable and life-saving benefits of full autonomy. Uber has long been a leader in human-operated ridesharing, and the pairing of our pioneering technology and all-electric fleet with their customer network provides Waymo with an opportunity to reach even more people.”
Indeed, the potential is huge. That said … it’s only really huge if Waymo can expand far beyond Phoenix with Uber. Presumably, that’s the aim for this “multi-year strategic partnership,” but how quickly can Waymo make it happen? If this partnership blows up interest in Waymo, the potential number of daily rides, and revenue potential, how quickly until Waymo × Uber can be in a dozen more cities, three dozen cities, 300 cities, and 3,000 cities? Does Waymo have the technological capability to grow exponentially and become nearly as common and accessible as Uber? We can only wait to find out, and of course speculate from our armchairs and couches in the meantime. What are your thoughts on this?
Featured image courtesy of Waymo.
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