Alphabet spent more than $1.1 billion to develop its self-driving programme

Alphabet spent more than $1.1 billion to develop its self-driving programme between 2009 and 2015, according to court documents, underscoring the depth of the Google owner’s investment in autonomous technology. The Silicon Valley company, which owns Waymo and was one of the earliest tech groups to develop self-driving cars, has for years refused to reveal the exact resources that it expended on the project. However, because of a clerical error, a court filing has disclosed that the project cost around $1.1 billion from 2009 through to the end of 2015, a figure that excludes employee stock grants and intra-company costs… At a time when technology and automotive companies are rushing to invest in self-driving technology, the disclosure of Alphabet’s investment provides a valuable data point for the debate over whether it is more effective to acquire autonomous expertise, or develop systems in-house. The huge sums spent on acquisitions of self-driving car businesses have prompted a gold rush among Silicon Valley start-ups, fuelled by big deals such as General Motors’ $1 billion acquisition of Cruise, and Intel’s $15 billion acquisition of Mobileye… Alphabet is unusual in that it developed its system almost entirely in-house, including the manufacture of specialised sensors such as Lidar, which use lasers to detect distances.
Leslie Hook