Waymo pulled ahead in the robotaxi field with California allowing it to ferry passengers in its robot-controlled taxis. Still, the Alphabet unit has enough regulatory and safety hurdles to leap to push broad uptake of its autonomous cars remains years into the future.

The self-driving company logged four million miles in 2018 on public roads in the U.S., more than any rival. While autonomous car startups Zoox, China-based Pony.ai, and AutoX had already received California’s permission to haul passengers, they lag Waymo’s experience: more than 90% of the miles driven by autonomous test cars in California were done in Waymo-owned vehicles, according to a Business Insider Intelligence report.

  • “Waymo is far ahead of Lyft and Uber in the autonomous ride-sharing race technologically. At the moment, Waymo has it the easiest to take over the market because it has the biggest pockets being under Alphabet,” Sergio Avedian, a contributor of The Rideshare Guy blog, says. “The smaller players and companies will disappear, be bought, or will have to consolidate.”
  • Waymo launched  its first commercial robotaxis service in the Phoenix area last year, called Waymo One. The service was available only to former Waymo users living in the Phoenix area and a Waymo-trained test driver had to be behind the steering wheel. 
  • “The trend is certainly going towards self-driving in the car markets but it’ll take at least another five to eight years before Waymo can commercialize them,” Avedian says. “Regulators will play a massive role in this making sure these cars are safe, especially after Uber’s self-driving car killing a pedestrian last year.”
  • Karma Takeaway: While Waymo moves ahead of the pack with its robotaxis in California, the regulations and economics of the self-driving industry will push back Waymo’s commercialization a few more years.