Robotaxis is the future of mobility, but it is not yet readily available to the general population. That could soon change, according to a new collaboration between Waymo and Uber, two of the most powerful players in the self-driving and ride-hailing businesses. The two erstwhile rivals have launched a multi-year strategic alliance that would allow Uber users in Phoenix, Arizona to summon Waymo’s driverless vehicles for rides and deliveries. This might be a game changer for both firms and the entire robotaxi market. Here’s all you need to know about this historic cooperation.
What is Waymo?
Waymo is a Google-owned self-driving technology business that was spun off in 2016. It is regarded as a pioneer in the sector, having developed and tested its autonomous driving system for more than a decade. Waymo has a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles capable of navigating difficult metropolitan situations without the need for human involvement. Waymo’s vehicles perceive their environment and make safe driving decisions using a combination of sensors, cameras, lidar, radar, and artificial intelligence.
Waymo One, the company’s commercial robotaxi service, debuted in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2018. Through an app, users may book rides in Waymo’s driverless vehicles. Waymo also provides a delivery service, Waymo Via, in which its autonomous vehicles convey items for a variety of partners. Waymo just increased its service area in Phoenix to 180 square miles, making it the world’s largest fully autonomous service area1.
What Exactly is Uber?
Uber is a global platform that connects riders and drivers for a variety of transportation services. In over 10,000 cities in 69 countries, Uber provides ride-hailing, bike-sharing, scooter-sharing, carpooling, transit, and delivery services. Uber Freight is a trucking platform that links shippers and carriers for long-distance transportation.
Uber has been investing in self-driving technology since it established its Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) in 2015. Uber ATG created and tested its own self-driving system on public roads in a number of cities. However, Uber encountered a number of difficulties and issues along the way, including a deadly accident involving one of its self-driving vehicles in 2018. Uber sold its ATG to Aurora Innovation, a self-driving startup created by former Google, Tesla, and Uber executives, in 2020. Uber maintains a stake in Aurora and intends to work with it on future autonomous projects2.
What is the Partnership Between Waymo and Uber?
Waymo and Uber have announced a multi-year strategic agreement in which Waymo’s driverless vehicles will be available on Uber’s platform in Phoenix later this year1. In Phoenix, a limited number of Waymo vehicles will be available to Uber users and Uber Eats delivery customers via the Uber app. The collaboration intends to merge Waymo’s world-leading autonomous driving technology with Uber’s huge ridesharing and delivery networks.
The collaboration is a big step forward in the development of self-driving ride-hailing and delivery services. It may also benefit both organizations by broadening their consumer base, improving revenue possibilities, and strengthening their competitive position. The collaboration might help Waymo reach more people and illustrate the value of its driverless technology. The collaboration might help Uber reduce its reliance on human drivers, slash its operational expenses, and enhance its safety record.
The collaboration is also noteworthy because it represents a reconciliation between two former adversaries who were formerly immersed in a harsh court battle over trade secret theft and patent infringement. Waymo filed a lawsuit against Uber and its affiliate Otto, a self-driving truck startup created by former Google employee Anthony Levandowski, in 2017.
Waymo accused Levandowski of stealing sensitive material from Google’s self-driving research and exploiting it to help Uber’s self-driving ambitions. The matter proceeded to trial in 2018, but it was resolved quickly when the two parties reached an unexpected settlement deal. Uber admitted to misappropriating some of Waymo’s technology and agreed to pay Waymo $245 million in stock. Levandowski was eventually sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing trade secrets, but former President Donald Trump pardoned him3.
Since then, the two firms have moved over their hostility and have even partnered on other initiatives. Waymo and Uber collaborated on autonomous long-haul transportation through Uber Freight4 in 2020. The new robotaxis alliance is an extension of their current friendship and demonstrates their mutual respect and trust.
What are the Benefits of Robotaxis?
Robotaxis is projected to provide numerous benefits to society, including:
- Increasing road safety through decreasing human error and preventing collisions.
- Increasing mobility access and convenience by providing dependable and cost-effective transportation solutions.
- Reducing traffic congestion and pollution through route optimization and the use of electric cars.
- By increasing demand and innovation, we can create new economic possibilities and jobs.
- According to McKinsey & Company research, by 2030, robotaxis might account for up to 20% of worldwide passenger kilometres traveled5. According to the paper, by then, robotaxis might earn $1.2 trillion in yearly revenue from ride-hailing services and $200 billion from delivery services.
What are the Challenges of Robotaxis?
Robotaxis has numerous difficulties before becoming popular, including:
- Compliance with diverse regulations and standards across jurisdictions creates regulatory obstacles and legal ambiguities.
- Technical challenges and limits are overcome by assuring excellent performance and reliability under a variety of situations.
- Addressing consumer concerns about safety, privacy, ethics, and the social effect increases consumer acceptability and trust.
- By differentiating from other businesses and delivering value for customers, you can avoid competitive pressures and market dynamics.
According to a Deloitte survey, only 27% of US customers would be comfortable riding in a completely driverless vehicle. According to the report, consumers have high expectations for robotaxis in terms of safety features, comfort levels, and pricing alternatives.
How Can I Try Robotaxis?
If you reside in Phoenix or plan to travel soon, you can sample robotaxis later this year with the Waymo One or Uber applications. You must install the applications on your smartphone and create an account. After that, you’ll be able to order a ride or delivery in one of Waymo’s driverless vehicles. You will also be able to score and provide feedback on your experience.
If you don’t live in Phoenix and want to explore other robotaxi services, consider the following:
- Cruise: Cruise is a self-driving car firm supported by General Motors, Honda, and Microsoft. It maintains an electric vehicle fleet in San Francisco and provides free trips to select workers and partners. Cruise intends to operate a commercial robotaxi service in San Francisco and Dubai in the near future.
- Motional: Motional is a collaboration between Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv, a technology business. In Las Vegas, it maintains a fleet of hybrid vehicles and provides paid trips using Lyft’s app. Later this year, Motional intends to establish a fully autonomous service in Las Vegas.
- Zoox: Zoox is an Amazon-owned self-driving business. It runs a fleet of custom-built electric vehicles in San Francisco and Las Vegas, where it provides free rides to a small group of employees and guests. Zoox intends to develop a commercial robotaxi service in numerous cities in the near future.
Robotaxis have the potential to transform mobility as we know it, but they have a long way to go before they are generally available and accepted. Waymo and Uber’s collaboration could be a catalyst for increasing the adoption of robotaxis by bringing together two of the industry’s most powerful firms. The collaboration may also benefit both organizations by broadening their consumer base, revenue possibilities, and competitive advantage.
If you are interested in trying out robotaxis, you can do so later this year through the Waymo One or Uber applications if you live in or visit Phoenix. Other robotaxi firms that operate in different cities include Cruise, Motional, and Zoox.
Robotaxis is no longer a sci-fi concept; it is becoming a reality. Are you prepared to jump on board?