Waymo, the autonomous- driving company funded by
has new leadership. Its longtime CEO stepped down amid a battle with
to develop self-driving cars, and Tesla’s fans on
are taking it as a sign that
‘s company’s lead is insurmountable.
That, of course, would be bad for Waymo, though there is no way to measure the market’s reaction, given that the business is a private company. Investors’ changing perceptions about Waymo, however, also have implications for shares of a number of startups, worth billions, that offer automotive lidar technology.
Investors appear to be reacting negatively to signs that Tesla is pulling ahead, but it isn’t clear they are drawing the correct conclusions.
is the man who stepped down at Waymo, founded in 2009 as Google’s self-driving car project, paving the way for co-CEOs Tekedra Mawakana and Dmitri Dolgov to take the reins. “With the fully autonomous Waymo One ride-hailing service open to all in our launch area of Metro Phoenix, and with the fifth generation of the Waymo Driver being prepared for deployment in ride-hailing and goods delivery, it’s a wonderful opportunity for me to pass the baton,” wrote Krafcik in a Friday LinkedIn post.
Lidar is short for laser-based radar. It is a key technology enabling plans for self-driving cars from companies ranging from Waymo to
Germany). All the players except Tesla are relying on it.
Musk, who said last he year wouldn’t use lidar in his cars even if the costly sensors were free, prefers optical, ultrasound, and traditional radar integrated with internally developed software to achieve self driving. Those sensor technologies are cheaper than lidar, but lidar is supposed to offer improved accuracy and better performance in certain conditions.
Even without lidar, Musk recently said, his company can achieve so-called Level 5 autonomous driving by the end of 2021. Level 5 is the final ranking in autonomy, as defined by SAE International, formerly known as the Society for Automotive Engineers. It refers to when a car can execute all driving tasks without human intervention. Tesla has been rolling out new versions of its Full Self Driving, or FSD, software for beta testing in recent weeks.
The combination of Tesla’s FSD announcements and Musk’s aversion to lidar has started to hurt lidar stocks….