Google has been working on self-driving car technology since 2009, but it wasn't until 2016 that Alphabet spun off the project as its own entity. Around the same time, a member of Google's self-driving car team departed to form his own self-driving vehicle startup, Otto, which Uber then acquired to advance its own self-driving car efforts. Now, Uber and Waymo are embroiled in a heated intellectual property battle as Waymo alleges Otto's co-founder, Anthony Levandowski, stole proprietary information and used it while heading up Uber's self-driving car project. Uber fired Levandowski in May after he refused to cooperate with the lawsuit.
US ridesharing giant Lyft announced Thursday it has received a $1 billion investment led by the venture arm of Google parent Alphabet, to help ramp up its challenge to market leader Uber. Lyft said the new funding gives it a valuation of $11 billion as it steps up competition against Uber, reeling from a series of missteps and scandals which have forced out its founder and chief executive. A Lyft blog post said the new funding round was led by CapitalG, formerly known as Google Capital, which invests in emerging tech firms. Lyft's latest capital injection of $1 billion led by Google parent Alphabet boosts the valuation of the ridesharing firm to $11 billion Lyft and Alphabet already have a relationship through a partnership Lyft struck with Waymo, Alphabet's self-driving car unit, in May. The two companies are collaborating on bringing autonomous vehicle technology to market, but have not provided many details.
CapitalG, Alphabet's growth investment fund, is leading a $1 billion financing round in Lyft, the rid hailing company announced Thursday, bringing its valuation to $11 billion. Additionally, the company announced that CapitalG Partner David Lawee is joining Lyft's board. The big investment adds another strand to the complicated web of alliances and rivalries developing in the emerging self-driving car market. Firstly, it reinforces Alphabet's existing relationship with Lyft. Waymo, Alphabet's self-driving car division, already has a partnership with Lyft to test self-driving cars.
Last month, we reported on rumors that Alphabet, Google's parent company, was considering investing in Lyft. Now, Lyft has announced that CapitalG, which is Alphabet's growth investment fund, is leading a $1 billion financing round in the car-sharing company. This brings Lyft's total valuation to $11 billion. Alphabet's interest in Lyft isn't that surprising, if you think about it. It's already clear that Alphabet is interested in self-driving cars, as the company owns Waymo.
There are a lot of hurdles to clear before autonomous cars can fully take over the roadways. Chief among them is training the police on how to react and handle a self-driving car error, as spotted by Recode. Currently, Waymo is working with local police forces and first responders in Arizona, California, Texas and Washington to educate them on how to identify and access an autonomous car in the event of an accident. Furthermore, if there isn't a driver present, the car will find a safe place to stop if a collision happens or if there's a system error. Same goes for times when its sensors are essentially whited out during a snow storm or other inclement weather.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has suggested a set of 28 "behavioral competencies," or basic things an autonomous vehicle should be able to do. Some are exceedingly basic ("detect and respond to stopped vehicles," "navigate intersections and perform turns"); others, more intricate ("respond to citizens directing traffic after a crash.) "This overview of our safety program reflects the important lessons learned through the 3.5 million miles Waymo's vehicles have self-driven on public roads, and billions of miles of simulated driving, over the last eight years," Waymo Chief Executive John Krafcik said in a letter Thursday to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. "You can't expect to program the car for everything you're possibly going to see," said Ron Medford, Waymo's safety director and a former senior National Highway Traffic Safety Administration official.
Waymo sued Uber in February, claiming that former engineer Anthony Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files before leaving to set up a self-driving truck company, called Otto, which Uber acquired soon after. Waymo sued Uber in February, claiming that former engineer Anthony Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files before leaving to set up a self-driving truck company, called Otto, which Uber acquired soon after. Benchmark cited Waymo's allegations of trade secret theft in separate litigation aimed at forcing Kalanick off Uber's board. On Sunday Oct. 1, the day before Kalanick was scheduled to give a deposition in the Waymo case, Kalanick's lawyers called Waymo and asked to postpone the deposition, lawyers for both companies said in court last week.
The California DMV is almost ready to allow autonomous vehicles on the state's public roads without a human test driver behind the wheel. LeBron James and Intel want to convince you autonomous cars are safe https://t.co/oytaRfDGmH That's largely because the DMV required companies testing on public roads to submit annual disengagement reports, which disclose the number of times a human operator was needed to take control of the vehicle. Some of the new rules will address those disengagement reports, while others will give companies more guidance on operating the test vehicles with public passengers. The DMV has granted 42 companies permission to test out self-driving tech on public roads, and has nearly 1,000 registered operators for the autonomous vehicles.
General Motors announced this week that they would "take full responsibility" if a crash takes place during an autonomous driving trip. Of course, if the system is not at fault, they can get payment from the other driver, and so it's still OK to tell the passenger or owner that GM takes responsibility. I have predicted since this all began that the Teamsters would eventually bring their influence to bear on automated trucking. Truck accidents kill 4,000 people every year, and truck driving is a grueling boring profession whose annual turnover sometimes exceeds 100%.
"As humans, if we are blindfolded and dropped in a new place, we'll find our bearings--we have millions of years of common sense to help guide our awareness," says Nikhil Naikal, Mapper's CEO. It's a painstaking process that requires people to drive vans equipped with sophisticated lidar (a combination of lasers and radar) equipment over designated roads in multiple passes to log every curb height, fire hydrant, and lane marking. Once it creates the base map and keeps updating it--"like a living organism," says Naikal--Mapper can license the product to customers such as automakers, transportation services like Uber, and even technology companies like Apple and Waymo. Carmera, whose mission is to "democratize autonomous vehicle data," partners with companies that operate fleets of cars or trucks.