Despite getting a lot of positive coverage during the beginning of this year, Alphabet's (aka Google) Waymo has been accruing more and more negative press recently.
There are two distinct reasons for this. One is a better understanding of the reluctance that many top-tier automakers still have when it comes to partnering with Waymo, in spite of its considerable hardware and software advances. The other is a better appreciation of how much more work needs to be done before autonomous cars are ready to take over from human drivers in most (never mind all) real-life situations.
A recent Bloomberg article provided an up-close look at the first issue: It reported that Honda (HMC - Get Report) , which recently struck a deal to invest $2.75 billion in General Motors's (GM - Get Report) Cruise self-driving unit over 12 years, reported that prior talks between Honda and Waymo failed in part because Waymo "wasn't willing to share" its self-driving tech with Honda, and was "seeking to cut a deal that would focus on Honda providing the cars."
Bloomberg added that over the last two months, Honda workers were able to "examine Cruise's code and get a close look at [its] technology," something that Waymo doesn't like to do. It also noted that Waymo likely wouldn't have been willing to sell a stake to Honda the way that Cruise did.
For the moment, only one top automaker -- Fiat Chrysler (FCAU - Get Report) -- has even said that it's in talks to use Waymo's technology within cars that it would sell to consumers. Fiat, along with Jaguar Land Rover, is one of two automakers that Waymo has struck deals with to buy and retrofit up to tens of thousands of cars for Waymo's own use.
This reluctance among major automakers to adopt Waymo's platform exists even though Waymo's fleet has driven over 8 million miles autonomously on public roads (far more than any rival project), and has also simulated over 5 billion miles of driving within Google data centers. All of this work has gone a long way towards aiding the ability of Waymo's driving algorithms to handle difficult and unpredictable real-world conditions.
Waymo has also invested in building detailed maps for its system, and in creating LIDAR sensors that it claims are much cheaper than third-party offerings used by rivals. And with the help of those retrofitted cars, the Alphabet unit is pushing ahead with plans to launch a driver less taxi service (currently in the trial stage) along designated roads in the Phoenix area, with the expectation of launching in additional markets next year.
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