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With Waymo’s Launch of Robo-Rides, When Can We Call a Tesla Taxi?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Waymo, a unit of Alphabet Inc., launched this week the first driverless-car service in the U.S. The service, called Waymo One, works just like other popular ride-hailing providers – punch a button on your cellphone to summon a ride, which arrives in minutes. And while there’s a human in the driver’s seat, they’re not in charge of the vehicle.

Robots are in charge. And there could soon be thousands of robotaxis on the road.

Waymo says the trained drivers are present only “to supervise our vehicles for riders’ comfort and convenience.”

In April 2017, Waymo first invited members of the public to ride in their cars through the early rider program. The company says it chose a “diverse and passionate group” to give feedback to refine the product. More than 400 people currently have access to the service as part of an “early riders” program.

“Early riders used our self-driving vehicles to take courses at a local college, commute to work and to high school, accompany a vision-impaired aunt shopping, get to book club each week, connect to buses, and try new restaurants on date night,” Waymo said in a blog post. “And, their feedback along the way has helped us refine our technology and design features that meet their needs. Based on their comments we worked on ways to streamline pickups, made it easy to contact support for questions, and began operating our service at at all times of the day.”[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eq89YGbERzs” video_title=”1″][vc_column_text]As can be expected with a corporate press release, particularly one promoting a radical change for society, Waymo says most of the feedback is positive from the people used for their experiment.

“We’ve already offered fully driverless rides to some of our early riders. Riders have shared their excitement about a self-driving future, and we expect this capability to gradually come to Waymo One,” the blog post said.

And, that self-driving future, as the blog post states in its opening graph, is all about safety.

“Almost 10 years ago, we were founded as the Google self-driving car project to explore one simple question: how can we best use fully self-driving technology to make roads safer? We’ve been focused on building the world’s most experienced driver ever since.”

A safe ride to the bank

But, let’s be honest. Waymo wants to make some dough from these robotaxis. Wall Street is already panting at the possibilities of such a massive disruption in transportation. Investment bank UBS, for instance, has estimated that Alphabet’s self-driving car unit could book $114 billion in revenue by 2030.

That revenue expectation isn’t just cab fares. UBS’ analyst Eric Sheridan said in a note that Waymo’s business opportunities fall into four main categories:

“We believe the four revenue pools they could look to monetize include: 1) maps; 2) AV operating system (OS); 3) robotaxi service; and 4) monetization of rider time spent in-car,” Sheridan said.

The full revenue potential for driverless technology is much greater. A 2017 report from Intel said the “Passenger Economy” represents a $7 trillion global opportunity in 2050.

“Our research finds that autonomous driving technology will enable a new Passenger Economy worth US$7 trillion in 2050,” the report said. “It will drive change across a range of industries, displacing vehicle ownership with Mobility-as-a-Service, and defining a new landscape of concierge and ride-hailing services, as well as pilotless vehicle options for businesses in industries like package delivery and long-haul transportation.”

Robotaxi teams

With such great potential, Waymo won’t be the only company to launch a commercial autonomous ride-hailing service. Other tech and auto companies like GM’s Cruise, Uber and Lyft are also preparing for a driverless future.

Uber is close to putting its self-driving cars back on the road after it had halted testing when one of its cars hit and killed a woman crossing a street in Phoenix. The accident in March was a worst-case-scenario for a technology that bills itself as potentially saving lives. Cautiously, Uber plans start testing its autonomous vehicles again this month on a mile-long loop near its offices in Pittsburgh. The company plans to keep the cars limited to 25 miles per hour, according to reports.

Lyft reportedly has its own self-driving cars on the road transporting employees to its office as part of an autonomous vehicle project that is currently in beta.

GM has said it will have a ride-sharing service featuring its line of self-driving Chevy Bolts ready to go by 2019.

And, of course, Elon Musk wants in on the robotaxi game too.

Tesla Network advantage

A Tesla-powered car-sharing network has been teased for a couple years, but Musk elaborated a bit on the vision during the company’s most recent earnings call.

“We absolutely see the future as kind of a shared electric autonomy, so that you’d be able to do ride-hailing or share the car anyway, you know sort of a long-term model that’s probably some combination of like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb,” Musk said. “There will be Tesla dedicated cars for ride-hailing and any customer will be able to share their car at will, just like you share your house on Airbnb. So, it’s a combination of those two models, I think is pretty obvious where things are headed long-term. The advantage that Tesla will have is that we’ll have millions of cars in the field with full autonomy capability and no one else will have that. So I think that will end up putting us in the strongest competitive position long-term.”

Musk said Tesla owners will be given the opportunity to profit before Tesla deploys its own cars into an area.

“The company-owned fleet will just be where there aren’t enough customer cars to be loaned out,” Musk said. “So if we find a particular metro where there aren’t enough customers who are loaning cars to the shared fleet then that’s where we will supplement with a Tesla owned fleet. So that’s why it sorts of a combination of Uber and Airbnb. And then we charge something probably comparable to yeah [Apple App store] or I don’t know we charge 30% or something in order for somebody to add the cars to fleet. I think that’s like a pretty sensible way to go.”

Tesla is currently racing to get its full-self-driving software dialed in. Tesla owners have now driven more than a billion miles with the driver-assist system engaged, which offers an important dataset for Tesla to leverage as it trains its self-driving system. Features such as Navigate on Autopilot are a notable step towards autonomous driving.

Musk said on the Recode Decode podcast that he believes Tesla could achieve full self-driving features by next year.

“(Navigate on Autopilot) is one of the first major steps toward full self-driving,” he said. “You can enter in an address, and from highway on-ramp to highway off-ramp, the car will change lanes. It will go from one highway to the next automatically and take off-ramp automatically. It’s pretty wild. It’ll overtake a slow car. It’s basically integrating navigation with the Autopilot capability.

“I think we’ll get to full self-driving next year. As a generalized solution, I think. Like we’re on track to do that next year. So I don’t know. I don’t think anyone else is on track to do it next year.”

If that’s the case, Alphabet’s Waymo One could soon have some serious competition. Tesla Network may not be the first to market, but since the company already has hundreds of thousands of vehicles on the road, it may have a big advantage.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Tam

Well-Known Member
Nov 25, 2012
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"next year" or "soon" is meaningless unless there's some concrete achieved competencies demonstrated.

In 2016, Tesla said it would do an autonomous coast-to-coast "next year" but it failed to demonstrate that it has achieved traffic lights / signs compliance while Waymo already did that for years.
 

SO16

Active Member
Feb 25, 2016
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"next year" or "soon" is meaningless unless there's some concrete achieved competencies demonstrated.

In 2016, Tesla said it would do an autonomous coast-to-coast "next year" but it failed to demonstrate that it has achieved traffic lights / signs compliance while Waymo already did that for years.

Tesla will leap frog once again.
 

Nocturnal

Supporting Member
Aug 23, 2018
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The Waymo cars still have a driver don't they? Even if they get ahead in actual FSD tech will they really be able to scale? Almost seems like they will need to be acquired by an automaker. Maybe that was the plan the whole time.
 

ItsNotAboutTheMoney

Well-Known Member
Jul 12, 2012
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The Waymo cars still have a driver don't they? Even if they get ahead in actual FSD tech will they really be able to scale? Almost seems like they will need to be acquired by an automaker. Maybe that was the plan the whole time.

At least the taxi income should help offset development costs a bit.

And, hell no, this is Alphagoogle we're talking about. They'll make the automakers beg.
 

CarlK

Active Member
Mar 23, 2013
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The Waymo cars still have a driver don't they? Even if they get ahead in actual FSD tech will they really be able to scale? Almost seems like they will need to be acquired by an automaker. Maybe that was the plan the whole time.

Yes and the driver still need to pay full attention all the time. Not any different than what Tesla requires. The only difference is Waymo uses professional drivers and don't need them to put hands on the streering wheel to confirm they are there.

Don't think Waymo wants to be acquired by an automaker though. No auto company would want to buy a technology that requires an expensive and ugly LIDAR on roof of the car. Unless perhaps if the car can do real driverless driving so they could make cars to sell to Uber or others. It would be too expensive for any auto company to buy iwhen it does have the capability. Even now some are giving Waymo a ridiculously high valuation in the tone of $100 billion.
 

Tam

Well-Known Member
Nov 25, 2012
8,439
7,284
Visalia, CA
...taxi income...

Doubtful that its taxi revenue will be meaningful at this rate.

It had quite a few of sign-ups (hundreds) for its Early Riders Program because it was free.

Now that program is converted to Waymo One that costs riders money and guess who would want to pay for it?

It still has problems of hesitations. Would anyone want to pay for a toddler or a student driver? That's what it feels like with current Waymo technology. Riders would want to scream to the machine "You can do it! Step on it! You can do a turn left right now!"

Even when they got the same number of sign-ups as before (hundreds), they still have to pay for safety driver currently.
 

Uncle Paul

Well-Known Member
Nov 1, 2013
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Canyon Lake,CA
You can already get a Tesla Taxi through Lyft or Uber. Like Waymo they also come with a driver.

You will see your ride coming to you on your smart phone. Once you get into the car the driver will have the directions to your destination on his own smart phone to guide him. When you get out the billing for your trip will be done electronically. They driver will rate you as a passenger and you will rate the driver for his performance.

All self drivng needs to do in better integrate these so well that the driver is no longer necessary.
 

electronblue

Active Member
Oct 1, 2018
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Some thoughts:

1. Nobody would care about the look and style of Waymo’s sensors if the system was finished and available to buy and legally use yourself. Owning a self-driving car is that useful and looks would be totally secondary. It remains to be seen what kind of sensors eventually are needed, where things miniatyrize to. But if a car could take you home from bar today or your kids to school every morning the utility would be so massive that who cares what it looks like.

2. If the progress shown by Waymo was shown by some other company that has a more enthusiastic following it would be seen as a miracle. :) Unfortunately Waymo is not a very sexy brand so the impressive thing they are doing goes mostly underappreciated. I mean realistically what would the response be if Tesla was running a fleet of 100 AP4 cars doing this thing somewhere, anywhere — even if they said AP4 is not coming to consumer cars for years. The reaction would not be the same that’s for sure.

3. Waymo One isn’t a commercial enterprise in the sense that they are out to make money with it. It would be a mistake to treat it as such. They are developing and validating technology. What is significant is they are selling a service because that exposes them to more of a liability. That shows progress.

4. And no, it isn’t the same as Tesla that Waymo have a safety driver — that safety driver is a backup whereas in a Tesla the driver is an active participant. A Waymo is a Level 4 car already today whereas a Tesla is a Level 2 car.

5. The article in #7 kills one longstanding myth: Waymos do take the freeway too.
 
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strangecosmos

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May 10, 2017
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Let’s just wait and see what happens after Hardware 3 launches. Andrej Karpathy says that Tesla has made progress with some new neural networks, but the Hardware 2 computers aren’t powerful to run them. He said he was excited to for Hardware 3 to start shipping.

I don’t know if any of us can predict when real driverless robotaxis will be deployed at scale. The CEOs and CTOs of these companies (not just Tesla but also Google/Waymo) have made wrong predictions in the past. I won’t even try to predict. I’ll just watch progress and keep track of milestones.
 

electronblue

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Oct 1, 2018
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The CEOs and CTOs of these companies (not just Tesla but also Google/Waymo) have made wrong predictions in the past.

This is where I most disagree with your posts — the false equivalences in one particular direction. It is obvious Google/Waymo’s predictions have been far more accurate than those of Tesla’s and they have made far less promises they couldn’t keep when it comes to autonomous. You could have made the point that nobody knows when autonomous will happen without taking a swing at Google/Waymo in the process which is completely unnecessary given their very conservative track-record.