Volvo Car Group announced today that it is partnering with Waymo, the self-driving tech firm that spun out of Google (is still a subsidiary of Alphabet). That means Volvo, Polestar, and Lynk & Co. are all now exclusively partnering with Waymo on the self-driving side of things.
There’s very little else added to the press release from Volvo and Waymo, just a couple of generically positive statements from Waymo Chief Automotive Officer Adam Frost and Volvo Car Group Chief Technology Officer Henrik Green.
The big question is how far Waymo tech can get Volvo, Polestar, and Lynk & Co. — and Waymo.
The company has been valued enormously for years, but that has dropped off in the past year, first 40% to $105 billion by Morgan Stanley last September, and then all the way down to $30 billion a few months ago. That’s a drop from $175 billion in 2018 to $30 billion today.
The problem is that no one is really certain what tech will get us to broadly applicable, effective, and cost-efficient self-driving vehicles (also known as robotaxis when they transport humans).
Many have postulated that Waymo has hit a kind of dead end, or is approaching one with the route it took, without being able to offer very effective and profitable service.
If all Volvo Car Group wants is better driver-assist systems, Waymo can surely offer those. If it wants to be ahead of the curve on true self-driving cars, there’s still some hope that Waymo can get there first. However, if the concerns are true, then Volvo Car Group may have just signed up for a bum deal.
As far as I can tell, nobody actually knows. Until we’re there, it’s anyone’s guess who gets us there first. I have my own opinions, but not being an expert in the field and not wanting to eat my shoe if I’m proven very, very wrong down the road, I’ll hold my tongue on this one.