The Self-Driving Industry Looks Unwell, Waymo Layoffs Begin

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

the self driving industry looks unwell waymo layoffs begin

Alphabet subsidiary Waymo has reportedly leaned into layoffs and everyone is wondering whether this is an offshoot of the 12,000 job cuts being made at Google or indicative that self-driving tech has run itself into a brick wall. While there’s certainly a wealth of evidence that autonomous vehicles have progressed more slowly than the industry would have had us believe a decade earlier, Waymo has arguably made some of the biggest strides in the industry.

That doesn’t mean there haven’t also been high-profile incidents that would leave one doubting the viability of self-driving cars. But the company has one of the most ambitious and successful pilot programs for autonomous vehicles to date.

According to Automotive News, several dozen Waymo employees have recently announced their layoffs over LinkedIn – suggesting that they’re the tip of the iceberg. Lost positions are not isolated to any single job title either. Waymo has reportedly cut staff from marketing teams, engineering departments, fleet maintenance, system integration, and just about every other department imaginable. Though it's hardly like this was a problem exclusive to any singular company.

From AN:

In perhaps signs of an uneven AV business landscape, recruiters and friends pointed the freshly unemployed Waymo veterans to active openings at self-driving tech companies such as Cruise, Gatik, Kodiak Robotics, Motional and Outrider.

Motional itself conducted an undisclosed number of layoffs in November. Waymo's reductions come three months after a key robotaxi competitor, Argo AI, entirely shuttered operations. Argo was a joint venture between Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen Group.

Despite the layoffs, the company's goals for 2023 remain unaffected, according to the spokesperson. But plans for its Via autonomous trucking unit have been pushed back. Waymo has never publicly outlined a specific time frame for commercially deploying its Class 8 tractor trailers without humans aboard. Nonetheless, the internal timeline has been "slightly" delayed, the spokesperson said.

It’s worth noting that tech companies are hemorrhaging staff across the board right now. Many investors have become skeptical about some of the promises made by these companies and the hectic economic landscape hasn’t helped things. Automakers have also been quietly (and sometimes not-so-quietly) reducing staff for years now, with rolling layoffs (some of which were temporary) really kicking off after restrictive health policies were put into place after 2020.

Waymo has said its passenger-carrying commercial service ( done without human drivers) will continue in Phoenix, Arizona, and remain its central focus as it helps develop better self-driving systems. The company also plans on expanding use for larger vehicles spending the brunt of its time on the highway via collaborative projects it already has with companies like UPS and J.B. Hunt.

We'll keep digging into the issue to see just how many people Waymo has lost and anticipate an update in the coming days. As things currently stand, it sounds like the self-driving arm has taken quite the hit but it's presently wrapped up in the broader Google layoffs.

[Image: Waymo]

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3 of 20 comments
  • Tylanner Tylanner on Jan 27, 2023

    Self-driving technology has never moved beyond "Senior Project" levels of engineering and infrastructure. More of a Pinewood derby competition than space-race.

    • MaintenanceCosts MaintenanceCosts on Jan 27, 2023

      Responsible companies' versions of the tech (i.e., not Tesla or Uber) are actually pretty good in perfect weather and with legible road markings. We're way beyond the science fair. The problems that haven't been solved yet are bad weather and worn-out roads.

  • Brn Brn on Jan 28, 2023

    More likely, with Google having troubles, the money tree isn't as ripe as it once was and cutbacks are needed.

    I hope the overall industry continues to evolve. When I get the the point I can't easily drive, I would still appreciate the independence that autonomous vehicles can bring.

  • MaintenanceCosts I own a 2019 Bolt Premier that's identical to this one except for the mods and I still wouldn't buy this one. Wheels are ugly, tint is illegally dark in my state, and a badge conversion to Opel, which GM doesn't even own anymore, is just plain dumb.
  • Verbal It is more about profit margins than market demand. Ford could easily sell a substantial number of this car in North America, but the profit margins would be thin. Ford makes money hand over fist on F-series, Broncos, etc. No need to venture out of the pickup/SUV/CUV box. The suburbs of America are filled with driveway queen F-150 air haulers that are the new Country Squires. Ford likes it that way.
  • JMII What I don't get about this video is how did the tire get under the Soul? Its not like those things have massive ground clearance. I assume a tire would have smacked into the bumper and went flying in some other direction. This interaction seems to break the laws of physics... the car should have won this encounter not the tire 😱
  • SCE to AUX Looks like a good buy, but I'm not into alterations.
  • Ajla I'm smart enough to see the popularity of CUVs.What I'm not smart enough to understand is how selling 20000 sedans in small markets is superior to selling 20000 sedans in a larger market.