A Waymo Jaguar I-PACE. JLR/Waymo
The Self Driving Vehicle race is under full throttle and is not stopping or slowing down no matter how many deaths it collects along the way. The Self Driving Vehicle is a reality coming into shape. Two leaders are emerging in this market, they are Waymo (Alphabet), and Cruise (GM).
Both companies approach the subject from a different angle, and that is to be expected, considering that both companies are from different industrial sectors. Waymo is a concept company, created by software developers to provide a comprehensive solution as an add on to vehicles. GM is an automaker that wants to create a new driving experience, or more a driverless experience.
This is why the race is uncertain since Waymo has no intentions of building its own cars, it's intentions are to collaborate with car makers and provide the best Autonomous Vehicle solution to each and everyone. GM is a car maker and only intends to add on the technology that will provide a driverless car.
Waymo's CEO John Krafcik stated that Google started the whole AV craze "before a time when anybody thought this would be a thing." Since then the AV craze started to spiral away and attract hundreds of companies from different sectors. Krafcik explained that while a lot of people are involved in the new sector, they have an advantage, "We're not buying stuff off the shelf, vehicle integration isn't trivial, but it's known, and we've done it six times." Krafcik is refferg to Waymo's collaboration with Chrysler's Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivans and their new Jaguars I-Pace partnership which will provide a fleet of 20,000 vehicles.
Waymo is working with Peterbilt trucks, testing their technology on freight vehicles. They are also working together with Honda to find a solution for a last-mile AV ride that will transfer passengers seamlessly from public transport to AV solutions.
A Waymo Chrysler Pacifica. Thomson Reuters
From Waymo's point of view, the product mix, hardware, and software are the main issue. Engineering these two separate components together and only after that integrating them into a physical frame is their way of developing their solution.
GM's point of view is different. They believe that assembling the vehicle with the technology together is the way to go. A spokesperson from GM Cruise stated, "By integrating our self-driving system into the vehicle from the beginning, and through close coordination between the hardware and software teams, we have evaluated potential failure modes for all systems, and addressed them throughout development to ensure a safe and reliable product."
Cruise was bought out by GM in 2016, after which Cruise bought out Strobe Inc. a California based LiDAR developer. They are now developing a built in solution that is TCO based (total cost ownership).
The difference in approach is blatantly obvious. Waymo wants to become a global supplier of AV technology that can be integrated into any vehicle. GM wants a built-in system that is unique to their vehicle. The bottom line is this; GM will lose, only because Microsoft proved that compatible systems are just as good as branded systems but are much cheaper to integrate and sell. Sure, GM will succeed to develop a unique branded solution, and it will only be in their cars. BUT! The world is all about IoT and integrated solutions, where AV's will talk with each other, and with other systems. The software that goes along side the AV is what will make the difference. Unless GM is Apple and comes up with an iPod style solution, they will find themselves alone. Most car manufacturers are trying to find ways of lowering costs not raising them. Since there will be many AV solutions competing for customer attention, car makers would best consider working with such a solution that is integrated during the assembly process but bought as a kit ready for integration.
At the end of the day, both systems will work, only Waymo will most probably be more prolific that GM.