Waymo: Expansion to China

Waymo Article - August 24 2018.jpg

Waymo, Google's autonomous vehicles spinoff, which may be now worth more than Tesla, has set up its own subsidiary in Shanghai's Free Trade Zone in China. This development would not ordinarily be considered surprising, as China is forecast to become the largest global economy by 2030, but it is a groundbreaking move for the Alphabet group: Google moved out of China in 2010 over censorship concerns, marking the end of the group's relationship with China. 

Now, Alphabet is moving back to China through Waymo, and more precisely, through a wholly-owned subsidiary called Huimo Business Consulting. Huimo will be based in Shanghai and has a starting operating capital of RMB3.5 million (approximately US$510,000). Waymo's General Counsel, Mr. Kevin Vosen, is listed as Its legal representative and Waymo LLC is its only shareholder. Waymo's CEO, Mr. John Krafcik is listed as director of Huimo. According to the filing documents that were first brought to light by a Shanghai-based media outlet, the scope of Huimo Business Consulting includes business and logistics consultancy, as well as design and testing of parts related to autonomous vehicles.

The great return of Google to China has been rumoured for more than two years, but over the past year the tech giant has actively taken steps to reestablish itself in the Asian country. Only a month ago, Google launched its own AI-based game on the omnipresent WeChat platform - a multi-player, team-based version of "Guess my Sketch", which allows players to draw something and try to make Google's AI guess what it is. Last December, Google also established an AI Research Centre in Beijing. 

Waymo confirmed to Reuters that its China-based subsidiary was established a few months back and it is already fully operational: Waymo employees are already working there. Alphabet's move may be interpreted as another sign of its willingness to move back to China - it has been rumoured that Google is working on a special version of its search engine that will comply with the stricter Internet rules enforced in the Asian country (through blocking of some content that would have otherwise been available). Additionally, China is considered one of the frontrunners in the self-driving vehicles market: the opening of the local market to foreign companies has seen European and American automakers conduct AV-testing in China. Last June, Daimler became the first non-Chinese automaker to receive a permit allowing it to test AVs in the public roads of Beijing. 

Photo Credit: Stephen McCarthy