Today’s Pickup: Companies are splurging on self-driving technology with no commercial deployment at sight

 Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Good day,

Building out end-to-end autonomous driving technology is extremely complex work involving hundreds of engineers and costing many billions in the process. Even Waymo, the self-driving technology arm of Google, has found the expense overwhelming enough for it to seek external third-party funding. Waymo is reportedly looking to raise investment from Volkswagen, with the post-funding valuation expected to top $15 billion.

Looking at the technology’s progress, coupled with rigid regulations from city administrations and a largely disapproving societal stance, the commercial kickoff of a fully autonomous vehicle seems to be quite far into the horizon. However, that has not stopped companies like Google, General Motors (GM), and Uber to splurge hundreds of millions in developing the technology.

GM’s self-driving unit Cruise lost $728 million last year, while Uber lost between $125-$200 million every quarter on its autonomous car technology, accounting for 15-30 percent of Uber’s quarterly losses. Waymo spends at least $1 billion a year, even after cutting down its LiDAR production costs by 90 percent.

Did you know?

There are now about 520 tanker lines capable of carrying LNG across oceans. The number is expected to grow by about 28% by 2020, roughly in line with the growth in LNG production across the world.


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In other news:

Game theory behind Lyft’s IPO: implications for Uber, Didi and Ola

Much like Uber in the US, Didi and Ola suddenly find themselves losing market share to other companies in their market. (e27)

Fiat hit by emissions again with U.S. recall of 863,000 cars

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV recalled almost 863,000 vehicles that violate U.S. emissions standards, another setback for a company that just agreed in a separate case to make amends for building trucks and SUVs that polluted more than legally allowed. (Bloomberg)

Supply chain problems to slow Adidas’ sales growth

Adidas expects supply chain issues to curb sales growth in the first half of the year, particularly in North America, where it has doubled its business in the last three years to take market share from bigger rival Nike. (Reuters)

SoftBank, other investors in talks to invest $1 billion in Uber’s self-driving unit

Uber is reportedly raising money in a deal that values the self-driving car unit at up to $10 billion. (Wall Street Journal)

Jumia IPO filing offer African ecommerce insight

African ecommerce giant Jumia has filed with the US Securities Exchange Commission to launch an IPO on the NYSE, despite reporting losses over the past two years. (Quartz)

Final thoughts:

Lyft is expected to open its doors to a much-hyped public offering in the next few weeks, which would make it one of the first publicly-traded companies in the on-demand transport space. The company would trade under LYFT, with an anticipated market cap of $20-$25 billion. Just like with most of the IPOs, Lyft’s runway towards net profit is still hazy. The company’s growing losses continue unchecked at the backdrop of its rivalry with Uber and might also be subject to an unrealistically high valuation. However, what would keep the company afloat amongst the bulls is its extraordinarily high growth rate. The company, if it keeps growing at the same pace, would one day have the first-mover advantage (along with Uber) and can consolidate in the market to finally show a profit. However, that day – at least for now – looks very far away.

 Hammer down everyone!

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Vishnu Rajamanickam, Staff Writer

Vishnu writes editorial commentary on cutting-edge technology within the freight industry, profiles startups, and brings in perspective from industry frontrunners and thought leaders in the freight space. In his spare time, he writes neo-noir poetry, blogs about travel & living, and loves to debate about international politics. He hopes to settle down in a village and grow his own food at some point in time. But for now, he is happy to live with his wife in the middle of a German metropolitan.

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