Waymo Exits Austin, Looks to Focus on Programs in Detroit and Phoenix
Waymo is testing its autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans in a number of cities, which include San Francisco, Phoenix, Novi, Kirkland, and Washington. Austin, Texas is another one of the cities, or at least it was. According to a report by CNBC, Waymo is pulling out of Austin and shutting down its project in the city.
Waymo Says Goodbye To Austin
Waymo's autonomous vehicles have been out in Austin, mapping the city and providing autonomous rides since 2015 – at least that's when Google's Firefly prototype started doing its thing in the city. But, according to the outlet, Waymo wants to focus on Detroit and Phoenix, which is where the employees will be offered to relocate to.
"Waymo is growing our investment and teams in both the Detroit and Phoenix areas, and we want to bring our operations teams together in these locations to best support our riders and our ride-hailing service," a Waymo spokesperson told CNBC in a statement. "As a result we've decided to relocate all Austin positions to Detroit and Phoenix."
The ride-hailing company didn't provide any more information on why it chose to shut down its operations in Austin. The city was the area where the city conducted its first autonomous trip on public roads in 2015. So shutting down such a crucial location for its company seems like an interesting choice.
Wall Street's Not Happy
CNBC claims that challenges commercializing its autonomous vehicles could be to blame. Apparently, Morgan Stanley cut its valuation of the company by 40 percent last month from $175 billion to $105 billion because it concluded that companies, like Waymo, weren't moving quickly enough toward commercializing self-driving technology. The fact that Waymo still uses human safety drivers was also an issue with Morgan Stanley.
Wall Street and economists might see Waymo as lagging behind, but the ride-hailing company is actually in the lead in the world of autonomous vehicles. Waymo recently started offering robotaxi pickups in Arizona without a safety driver behind the wheel, the company is starting to outfit its driverless vehicles at a plant in Detroit, and, according to a California DMV disengagement report from earlier this year, is a leader when it comes to having the fewest number of disengagements.
There are numerous companies testing autonomous cars, but out of all of them, Waymo's accomplished the most. Having two major cities for its autonomous project is a way to help Waymo concentrate on two areas, bringing down costs and theoretically helping to bring autonomous vehicles to market sooner. Phoenix is the location for one of the company's longest-running testing areas, while Detroit has become the epicenter for everything the company does.
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