Waymo announced on Monday that it had laid off workers in a move to streamline its operations. The layoffs come as Google and Alphabet suffer from a spate of layoffs last week, which suggests that the tech companies are facing significant challenges. Waymo’s layoffs may signal just how challenging it will be for autonomous technology to take off in mainstream markets.
Waymo has faced accusations of shutting down its autonomous trucking division Via. The company denies this and states that it is still fully committed to bringing its freight trucking solution to scale over time. Via will continue to be developed in a way that is applicable across business lines, including freeway capabilities that can be applied to both ride-hailing and trucking.
What could be behind Alphabet’s recent layoffs? Aside from the current economic realities, company culture could also be at fault. The way we live today means that companies must quickly adapt and hire for a different reality, but this type of change can be difficult for some employees. Additionally, many Silicon Valley companies are struggling to keep up with new competitors like Amazon and Uber who have much larger ecosystems and more resources.
There are still many skeptics when it comes to the future of autonomous vehicles. These cuts at Waymo suggest that the company might not be able to continue its growth in this field. It seems that autonomy is still a hard and expensive problem to solve, even for technology giants like Waymo.
The recent advancements by Waymo and General Motors’ Cruise suggests that the traditional trucking industry may soon be replaced by self-driving vehicles. The cutting or scaling back of this program could mean a loss of jobs for drivers, but it could also free up resources to focus on Waymo’s robotaxi efforts, which are currently lagging behind those of Cruise.
After an exclusive report in The Information revealed that Waymo is being sued by a self-driving truck company because of stolen technology, Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving division has been spending more time looking into acquiring competitors than developing its own products. In May, one of the company’s autonomous semitrucks crashed in California, leading to suspicion about how safe the technology was and further slowing down development.
Waymo is a division of Alphabet Inc., one of the world’s largest and most influential technology companies. Waymo operates primarily as a self-driving car company, with emphasis on developing autonomous driving technology. However, Waymo’s loss-makers in the third quarter last year show that they are not only focused on developing autonomous driving technology, but also have other ventures which may not be successful.
It’s no secret that spending on some parts of Google has been increasing recently. TG+I argued that this trend needs to stop, as it’s causing the shutdown of Argo AI. CEO Sundar Pichai should listen to them and curb spending accordingly in order to ensure the future viability of Google’s self-driving projects.
Waymo has been rumored to be in talks with several trucking companies in order to offer driverless rides. If these rumors are true, Waymo’s revenue will come from the fees its drivers receive for their rides as well as any revenue that is generated from driverless trucking partnerships.