Once again, Waymo is flush with funding.
The self-driving technology company said Wednesday it added $2.5 billion more to its coffers in its latest investment round. The new round comes a little more than a year after the company raised $3 billion in its first external funding round.
Much has changed in the interim. Waymo expanded testing of robotaxis without human backup drivers last October. It saw CEO John Krafcik depart in April. This month, the company added another key partner, logistics firm J.B. Hunt, as the industry gravitates toward trucking as a first application of commercial autonomy.
Given the brisk pace of change, the company's current leadership team sees the further investment as a sign that Waymo remains on the right track.
"Their vote of confidence is very meaningful to us at this point," Tekedra Mawakana, one of Waymo's two co-CEOs, tells Automotive News. "We feel very well positioned in this consolidating industry as a company with real services in the real world, currently being used by real customers."
Waymo did not disclose the valuation of the company. Investment firm Morgan Stanley estimated its value at $105 billion in September 2019.
The same companies that participated in Waymo's first funding round have participated in the latest one, the company said. They are AutoNation and global supplier Magna International, as well as Waymo parent company Alphabet, the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board, Mubadala Investment Co., Fidelity Management & Research Co., Perry Creek Capital, T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. and global tech investment firm Silver Lake, which led the first round. The lone newcomer to the group is Tiger Global Management.
Mawakana said the round was oversubscribed and that Waymo was judicious in accepting further funding.
The money will be used to add to a staff of more than 2,000 and continue development on the company's fifth-generation autonomous-driving system. That system is installed on Class 8 trucks testing in the Phoenix area and, more recently, along Interstate 45 in Texas in conjunction with the company's burgeoning partnership with J.B. Hunt.
Waymo's fifth-generation driver, which is an enhanced suite of sensors and software, has also been upfitted to the company's fleet of Jaguar I-Pace electric vehicles currently testing in San Francisco. While the company has been driving there in some form or fashion since its formative days as a Google project, it increased its San Francisco presence starting in February.
Beyond its formative commercial operations in Chandler, Ariz., San Francisco will in all likelihood be the next place where the company begins Waymo One ride-hailing operations. But the timetable for scaling operations is not yet etched on the calendar.
"We're going as fast as we can while holding to our safety principles," said co-CEO Dmitri Dolgov. "It is going to be gradual. It will not be overnight. But we're taking this step to set us up for the next chapter of our journey."
With its technology and maturing robotaxi and freight-hauling plans, Waymo ranked first among 15 self-driving tech companies analyzed in Guidehouse Insights' annual automated-driving leaderboard published in the second quarter of 2021.
The initial funding round "is believed to be related to the recognition that broad deployment of AVs is not imminent," analyst Sam Abuelsamid wrote in the leaderboard report. With the latest round, Waymo will have additional runway to continue its broad testing on the long road toward those widespread deployments.
"For us, this feels like great momentum," Mawakana said. "It's an opportunity to keep pushing forward."