Alphabet’s self-driving unit Waymo raises $2.5B in funding

Alphabet’s self-driving unit Waymo said on Wednesday it raised $2.5 billion in its fresh funding round in a year after a string of defections of executives rekindled concerns about the technology struggling to scale up.

The funding led by Alphabet and other existing shareholders is the second outside funding for Waymo, which last year raised $3.25 billion in its first external investment round since its inception 2009.

Waymo has been widely viewed as the leader of the self-driving race, but attaining the holy grail of full and safe automation remains challenging as it faces growing competition from rivals backed by legacy automakers.

“There’s no greater challenge in artificial intelligence than building and deploying fully autonomous technology at scale,” Dmitri Dolgov and Tekedra Mawakana, Waymo’s co-CEOs, said in a statement.

Self-driving startups are racing to build war chests to develop and commercialize technology, an expensive and time-consuming process.

General Motors’ majority-owned Cruise self-driving car subsidiary said on Tuesday it would gain access to a multi-year $5 billion line of credit with GM’s finance arm.

Waymo co-CEO Dmitri Dolgov standing near a Waymo car
“Deploying fully autonomous technology at scale” is the challenge for Waymo, said company co-CEO Dmitri Dolgov.
AFP via Getty Images

Self-driving startup Argo AI, backed by Ford and Volkswagen, also plans to have another funding round before pursuing a public listing next year.

According to investor website PitchBook, Waymo, which offers a limited driverless rides hailing service in Phoenix, is valued at just over $30 billion. Alphabet did not immediately comment on the unit’s latest valuation.

The funds from the round, which included more than 10 participants, will be used for advancing Waymo Driver, the company’s autonomous driving technology, and to grow Waymo’s team, the company said.

Participants in this latest round include AutoNation, Magna International, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Fidelity Management & Research Company, as well as new investor Tiger Global.

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