While most, if not all, automakers have jumped on the self-driving car bandwagon, Waymo (a Google spinoff) has been on the job since 2009. The company has logged billions of computer-simulation miles and 20 million driven miles on public roads. But even after a decade of development, Waymo is still years away from a wide launch. So, in true Google fashion, the company is throwing money at the problem – a lot of it – hiring an army of engineers to quickly get its autonomous taxi service ready for prime time.
In this newsletter, we're dissecting Waymo's expensive hiring binge and taking a look at 5G adoption which will play a key role in how driverless cars navigate roads and highways. Keep scrolling for more and we'll see you in a fortnight.
Kim Taylor CEO, Cluster
Global 5G Adoption
Waymo's Hiring Binge
A year ago, Waymo had roughly 800 employees on the payroll. Today, that number has nearly doubled to 1,500. The company has been hiring engineers and other key personnel aggressively, spending about $1 billion annually in order to develop a reliable self-driving vehicle.
The rise in headcount came primarily through the addition of 400 software and hardware engineers who represent two-thirds of Waymo’s employees. In addition, Waymo pays hundreds of contractors to operate its fleet of 600 vehicle prototypes, primarily in suburban Phoenix.
Waymo's self-driving technology is leaps and bounds ahead of its rivals, but it's still nowhere near ready for all roads and all situations (Level 5 autonomy). So the company is focusing on simulation software that will test and qualify new software before it hits the road.
The company's hardware group is growing too. Waymo designs its own cameras, radars and LiDARs. About 350 hardware engineers are tasked with continually upgrading the systems and aims to test the gear in a mix of weather conditions beyond what can be found in Arizona.
Waymo is also searching for a breakthrough in machine-learning software that can help in vehicle perception. Maturing this technology will help autonomous vehicles quickly identify and categorize objects (such as pedestrians) and predict what those objects will do next.
Last year, telecoms began rolling out 5G networks and signed up some 12 million subscribers worldwide. That number is forecasted to septuple to 84 million this year and explode to 2.45 billion in just five years.
5G technology won't just allow for much faster internet connections, but allow for greater capacity so everything can connect online at the same time. This includes utility grids, appliances, medical devices, industrial machinery, homes, cities, farms and more.
Lower latency and improved reliability will enable surgeons to perform operations from anywhere on Earth using a connected surgical robot. Self-driving cars will also rely on 5G's decreased latency to make split-second decisions in realtime.
5G is poised to have a dramatic impact on factories and facilities, increasing productivity, lowering costs and enhancing safety in industrial workplaces. Its ability to accelerate connectivity without sacrificing battery life will be beneficial to farmers, improving veterinary diagnostics, crop protection, reduction of fertilizer use and smart irrigation systems that conserve water.
The technology is also expected to close the gap between broadband connections in cities and those in some rural areas. Just as 4G brought with it a dawn of apps like Uber and Tinder, there is no telling which new business models and industries will be created as 5G rolls out en mass worldwide.
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