Why Waymo may fail to capture major market share.

1. Waymo is dependent on HD digital maps: 

Problem: First, HD mapping the whole USA will be very tough if not impossible. Second, HD mapping the whole of Europe, China, and the rest of the world is a very capital intensive process. Road changes all the time especially for road construction, road closures etc reason.

Let’s look at an example. Google Maps is the best map in the world. But this map is not Google’s own success. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers worked for google’s map improvement. Though those volunteers still working for google maps, one can still find outdated or wrong information on google maps. I don’t think HD maps can be kept up to date all the time. It is simply too expensive, and time-consuming.

Let assume Google or some other company invents a technology that HD maps any road automatically when you drive on a road. However, for sure this tech will increase vehicle ownership cost.

2. Waymo is dependent on Lidar: 

Problem 1: As of today lidar is very expensive. During rain, snow it performs poorly. It does not detect colors nor it can read the sign. For those things you need cameras. So even if you use lidar you need to have a camera too.

Problem 2: We don’t know the life expectancy of lidar. As of today, we can assume if a lidar fails it will be pretty expensive to replace. Google designs its own lidar. So if it fails it could be expensive.

3. Waymo is depended on GPS:

Waymo is also GPS dependent. It uses GPS data to position itself in the HD maps. This dependency on GPS is easily hackable. Someone can jam the GPS signal. GPS does not perform very well around big buildings, inside the tunnel, around bridges.

4. No Neural Network, No learning: 

As far as we know Waymo’s self-driving technology is not run through any neural network. Lidar data does not teach Waymo software. Over time Waymo software will not get exponentially better. Every corner case in the real world is a bug for Waymo software. For an engineer, it’s impossible to simulate every real-world corner case. In order to be successful, Waymo has to work very well not only in the USA but also in Canada, Mexico, Europe, China, India, the Middle East, and Africa. Good luck for those Google engineers to simulate every road condition of this world and program Waymo software.

5. Waymo operated vehicle looks Ugly: 

Comparing the look of a Waymo operated vehicle vs normal vehicle, Waymo looks Ugly. In the name of technology, you can’t sell an ugly product. Consumers don’t like it. People rejected google glass. One major reason was it looked ugly. People buy Apple products because those look beautiful and it’s functional.

6. Waymo taxi will be unprofitable:

Uber and Lyft. Both still losing money. They take more than 33% of drivers’ income but still unprofitable. We may think an autonomous taxi service will earn money and keep 100% of its income and will be profitable. But maintaining a massive fleet of vehicles will not be easy and cheap. It is a very complicated scenario. Taxi driving seems easy but has thousands of corner cases.

7. Competition from Tesla:

Tesla produces vehicles with its own self-driving technology. Their tech only uses camera, radar, and sonar. Tesla Autopilot is learning constantly which Waymo can’t do. Tesla is highly vertically integrated. So it controls vehicle design, battery technology, infotainment software, and self-driving technology. Waymo on the other hand only developing self-driving technology. Even if waymo designs the infotainment software, they are dependent on third party car manufacturers. What we have seen so far that legacy car manufacturers are very slow to adapt to massive changes in the market. This will slow down Waymo’s progress. 

Final Note (EV’s):

Autonomous driving only a single feature of a vehicle. A vehicle also needs to be good looking, must have long-range, charger stations, quick and efficient, modern infotainment system. So far every other EV has failed on the range, speed, charger stations, infotainment systems, and efficiency. Waymo will thrive only if a car company can thrive with Waymo technology.

Everything in a package attracts buyers. Only Waymo self-driving technology is not enough

Let’s look at an example. Google’s own phone vs Samsung phone. Both run Android operating system. But people mostly buy Samsung phones because of their design, battery, display, processor, ram, camera, and software features. But still, Samsung lags Apple on sales and profit.

Few References:
1. https://waymo.com/
2. https://gizmodo.com/jamming-gps-signals-is-illegal-dangerous-cheap-and-e-1796778955
3. https://www.cnet.com/news/truck-driver-has-gps-jammer-accidentally-jams-newark-airport/
4. https://katapultengineering.com/post/2018/10/02/the-pros-and-cons-of-lidar

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