Waymo established a company named Huimo Business Consulting on May 22 in Shanghai’s free trade zone. While the company has an office registered on the 28th floor of the Shanghai World Financial Center and has confirmed people working there, they have declined to give further details.
The company lists a registered capital of CN¥3.5 million ($509,165) and a business scope including self-driving vehicles, testing, and product design, according to China’s National Enterprise Information Publicity System.
According to McKinsey & Company, China will become the world’s largest market for autonomous cars. The report says revenue from such cars and related services will exceed US$500 billion by 2030. Some of Chinese autonomous vehicle competitors Waymo will encounter include internet search giant Baidu, ride-hailing startup Didi Chuxing, e-commerce leader Alibaba and social media and gaming company Tencent.
Google and China together again
Waymo’s new Shanghai address is Alphabet’s latest attempt to rekindle its relationship with China. After quitting the country’s search engine market in 2010, many of Google’s services still remain blocked in mainland China. Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Google is planning to launch a restricted version of its search engine in the country. Google has stated this is only in the early development stages.
If all goes well, Alphabet’s Waymo olive branch could pave the way for new Google services while still serving to establish themselves in the burgeoning Chinese autonomous vehicle market. This early deployment strategy is not new for Waymo. The company’s history of headstarts began with its inception in 2009, followed by an early domestic pilot program last summer, and most recently, a blockbuster partnership with Walmart.
Beijing recently cleared Shanghai for autonomous vehicle road-testing by issuing licenses to automakers. China’s interest in becoming competitive in the self-driving car market is good news for companies like Waymo. But few would consider them out of the woods quite yet. Waymo, automakers, and other autonomous vehicle companies will still have to contend with the challenges of infamous Chinese traffic and regulatory congestion.