Google gets a bunch of news -- and that is news. Also, contract manufacturing
There have been recently a few news announcements and in depth coverage of Waymo.
- A Verge piece about a day in the life of a self-driving taxi
- A piece with local detail form Arizona revealing not all rides are free
- Interviews with Early Rider Participants
- A prediction that they will do "up toa million rides a day" by 2020, made just after the Uber fatality. (Presumably with shared rides, 20K Jaguars and some number of Pacificas.)
- Waymo's own blog post
These pieces are interesting if you follow Waymo, but they, along with a number of other recent stories, signal a major change at Waymo -- they are actively engaging the press.
Waymo has never totally hidden from the press, but as part of Google/Alphabet, they have never had the need for press that other ventures do. Google is the world's #1 brand. Anything it does gets tons of press automatically. They don't talk to the press unless they want to.
So this means they now want to. Which means they have made a real decision to take it to the next level. Of course statements like "million rides a day" say that explicitly, but lots of companies have made bold predictions of what they plan to do and why. Waymo has declared it is ready for public engagement and scrutiny, and wants to mold the story. In effect, even though they were not in stealth, it is like they have come out of stealth.
Car makers waking up
On another note -- probably related in an obscure way -- I heard from a source I won't name that one of the major automakers has decided it will be quite happy to be a contract manufacturer in the robocar world of the future.
Of course, FCA is making minivans for Waymo, and Jaguar has an order for 20,000 E-Pace vehicles. Volvo has an "order" for 24,000 Volvos as well. But there has always been unease at the idea. Dieter Zetsche of Daimler has declared for years that he doesn't want to be the Foxconn that makes the cars but doesn't design them, though I have predicted that will be the fate of several car companies.
Indeed, there are only 5 fates I see:
- A leading robocar company
- The contract manufacturer for a fabless robocar company
- A non-robocar maker doing well in markets not yet dominated by robocars, leading to #5
- A minor player doing non-robocars for niche markets
Since only a few players will survive to slot #1, it makes sense that players should get ready to accept choice #2. It's not as high margin, but it's not a terrible place to be. If you focus on being the best at it, you will do very well, because there are going to be more robocars made than there are regular cars made today.