What Is A LiDAR System? Light Detection And Ranging (“LiDAR”) sensors are detection and survey systems to estimate the proximity of a target object. LiDAR sensor systems consist of four primary elements: 1.) Lasers 2.) Scanners 3.) Photodetector receivers 4.) GPS navigation systems. LiDAR systems enable autonomous vehicles (or robots), to observe the world with: a.) Continuous 360…
CEORater Podcast Ep. 64: Waymo Extends Lead In Autonomous Vehicle Segment:
From the Wall Street Journal:
“Autonomous cars may not need a driver, but they still need a good mechanic.
Waymo LLC, the driverless-car unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc. has signed up AutoNation Inc. to service robovans that are being tested in Arizona and California. The agreement, announced Thursday, shows the Silicon Valley tech giant is closer to deploying vehicles on public roadways without humans behind the wheel.
The agreement is separate from a June deal where Avis Budget Group Inc. agreed to park Waymo vehicles at rental lots and do routine maintenance, including oil changes, tire rotations and cleaning. AutoNation, the largest dealership chain in the U.S., will provide mechanical and cosmetic repairs to Waymo’s fleet.
Waymo is considered a leader in autonomous-car research and has been transitioning to operating a fleet of hundreds of Pacifica minivans built by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles that are retrofitted with extensive software and other gear so the vehicles can drive themselves. Waymo, which is competing with several auto makers in the driverless car race, showed off new demonstrations of its technology on Tuesday.
Auto dealers sell new and used cars but book a big chunk of their profits on financing and servicing vehicles. Many of them, including AutoNation, have been experimenting with ways to become more relevant if car usage becomes more of a shared service and people no longer need to be the primary driver of their car.
AutoNation has begun servicing self-driving vehicles in the Phoenix area, where Waymo has launched a program that gives hundreds residents free rides in the self-driving cars. Mike Jackson, AutoNation’s chief executive, said he has been making regular visits to Waymo headquarters and realized his dealership group could have a role in the commercialization of self-driving vehicles.
“We’re able to put in place the strategic maintenance and care program for each vehicle that will proactively make sure it’s always operating at the highest safety levels and will optimize the life cycle of the vehicle,” Mr. Jackson said in an interview.
In a statement, Waymo Chief Executive John Krafcik said the two companies have “a shared vision of enhancing the in-car experience” and AutoNation will help to ensure “Waymo vehicles are always in top condition as we bring fully self-driving cars to the public.”
“This is additional business for us,” said Mr. Jackson. “I believe Waymo is going to grow—I think they have the right approach and we’re going to grow with them.”
AutoNation said its technicians have the expertise to maintain and repair the vehicles but as the partnership grows, they will hire more technicians to meet demand.
The Waymo deal is a part of a broader AutoNation effort to reduce its dependence on low-margin new car sales. In the last quarter, it opened “AutoNation USA” used-car centers and expanded into branded car parts, auctions and collision centers.
Separately, AutoNation said its quarterly net income from continuing operations fell 9.5% from a year earlier to $1.00 a share, beating analysts’ expectations by 16 cents. Revenue fell 2.7% to $3.2 billion.
Same store used-vehicle gross profit was up 9% from a year earlier.”
Uber’s corporate governance – or lackthereof – is a hurdle in consumating a deal with Softbank. We are not fans of entrenched founders and out-sized voting stakes.
Embedded voice-based intelligence/AI within the automobile – one more reason for Apple, Amazon, Google/Alphabet and Microsoft to insert/expand their footprint within the auto sector. Vehicles are feature-rich and lend themselves well to voice-based commands/ AIs. Each of Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft could readily (and in some cases do) open their respective AI platforms to auto OEMs for the purpose of embedding AI technology within the vehicle. The more strategic question however is whether “success” in this space necessitates that AAPL, AMZN, GOOG and MSFT own automobile operations. Google (via Waymo) and Apple are pushing forward. Will Amazon and Microsoft seek to “own” manufacturing in an effort to increase learnings in the auto sector? Other than autonomous vehicles, what will be the practical global reality 25-50 years forward regarding automobile ownership? Will today’s 20-somethings largely be ridesharers in 2050, or, will they own modular vehicles that may be customized like a mobile phone? The latter scenario would likely prove to be profitable for the automotive aftermarket sector to a degree it has yet to enjoy. Regardless of the practical reality AI will be deeply embedded in vehicles.