Synced has discovered that Alphabet self-driving subsidiary Waymo has set up an office in China.
On August 23, Synced found an entry in the National Enterprise Information Publicity System indicating that the limited liability company (solely foreign invested – 外国法人独资) Huimo Business Consulting (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. had been incorporated in Shanghai. The company has one shareholder, Waymo LLC; a capital contribution of CN¥3.5 million; and an office registered at 28th Floor, Shanghai World Financial Center, 100 Century Avenue, Shanghai Free Trade Zone.
The record indicates the company was established on May 22nd with a business scope that includes self-driving vehicle parts, product design, and testing. Company services include information consultation, management consultation, trade information consultation, supply chain management consultation, logistics information consultation, and related support services.
Bloomberg is reporting that a Waymo spokesperson has confirmed the legal entity and said the company has people working in Shanghai but declined to comment further.
During a visit to Silicon Valley on July 25, Director of the Shanghai Economic and Information Committee Chen Mingbo indicated he had reached a consensus with Waymo and Alphabet research arm Verily regarding future collaboration and hoped that Waymo might settle in Shanghai.
Waymo is leading the global autonomous vehicle (AV) race, according to a recent report from Chicago-based research firm Navigant. The Google spinoff is now driving almost one million miles per month and has piled up eight million miles since inception.
Wayno is also accelerating its commercial operation. CEO John Krafcik announced earlier this year that the company will purchase 62,000 minivans from Fiat Chrysler for a 24/7 ride-hailing service to be launched late this year in Phoenix, Arizona.
Waymo is expanding its presence in overseas markets, particularly China. Over 185 million people use ride-hailing services in China, and the country’s US$30 billion market is now worth more than the rest of the world combined.
Morgan Stanley said this month that Waymo could be valued at US$175 billion.
In China Waymo will face competition from local ride-hailing leader Didichuxing and Internet giant Baidu, as well as AI startups such as Pony.ai and Roadstar.ai.
Didichuxing is now valued at US$80 billion. The company established a Silicon Valley based research institute in March 2017 and an AI lab this year. Founder and CEO Wei Cheng says Didichuxing aims to launch a fully autonomous fleet service early next year.
Baidu meanwhile released its AV open source platform Apollo last year, billed as “the Android of the auto industry.” Baidu has also benefited from Chinese government support.
Pony.ai and Roadstar.ai are China’s most valued AV startups, both working toward Level 4 high automation capabilities. Pony.ai has raised US$214 million this year while Roadstar.ai nabbed US$128 million several months ago.
Waymo’s foray is seen as a major step towards Google’s return to China, and Shanghai seems the perfect place to make it. The company will however encounter significant challenges, not least of which may be navigating bustling Chinese roads.
Journalist: Fangyu Cai, Tony Peng | Editor: Michael Sarazen