Google Invests $1.1 Billion in Self-Driving Car Project

220px-Waymo_self-driving_car_front_view.gkLaunched in 2009, Waymo is a secretive project led by Google with the goal of developing self-driving cars. Formerly led by Sebastian Thurn, who co-invented Google Street View, it’s made significant progress towards making self-driving cars a reality. In 2015, Google announced than their autonomous vehicles had driven for more 1 million miles, which is the equivalent of 75 years of U.S. adult driving. During this time, Google’s self-driving cars had encountered approximately 200,000 stop sights, 600,000 traffic lights and more than 180 million other vehicles.

Up until now, however, little has been known regarding Google’s budget for Waymo. Like other projects under its “Moonshot” program, the search engine giant has kept quiet, leaving the public to speculate. However, recent court filings suggest that Google has spent more than $1.1 billion on Waymo to date.

If you keep up with the news, you may recall hearing that Google is currently in a legal battle against Uber over its self-driving technology. Google says that Uber stole its self-driving technology and is using it for their own commercial gain. During a deposition with lawyers, Google’s senior financial analyst Shawn Bananzadeh explained that Google had spent around $1.1 billion on the Waymo project. This estimation reflects all costs — both indirect and direct — associated with the project, including the software, automobiles, sensors, computers and more.

In 2015, Uber opened its own research and development center specifically for self-driving technology. The ridesharing company has yet to release a self-driving car, but like Google, it plans to one day. However, Google says Uber is using its trade secrets without its permission — and this is the basis for which Google is suing Uber.

The $1.1 billion figure is particularly important given the nature of this lawsuit. As you may already know, Google hasn’t released its self-driving cars yet; rather, the Waymo project is still in the development stages. Because of this, there’s no way to determine exactly how much monetary damage Uber’s alleged trade secret theft has caused. If Google’s self-driving cars were available for sale, Google cook look at sales revenue to calculate this number. Without this information, however, Google has to look elsewhere to determine the monetary damage, and one alternative place it can look is the project’s cost of development.

Does this mean that Uber is on the hook to pay Google $1.1 billion? Only time will tell, as the legal battle is far from over.



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