Canadian money pours into Google’s autonomous tech company as investor group pledges $2.25 billion
The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) will be among the first group of external investors in Waymo, the autonomous driving technology company established by Google and fully owned by its parent, Alphabet Inc.
Other early investors include Canadian auto parts manufacturer Magna International Inc., and Silver Lake Partners, an American private equity firm.
Although the amount contributed by each investor was not disclosed, the total invested was US$2.25 billion.
Magna’s association with Waymo dates to last year, when the companies partnered to open the world’s first factory fully devoted to manufacturing self-driving cars.
As many as 400 Magna engineers were hired for the project.
The CCPIB is a Crown corporation responsible for managing the funds of the Canada Pension Plan. As of Dec. 31, reported assets totaled CAD$420 billion, managed on behalf of 20 million Canadians.
“First and foremost, we are extremely excited to partner with Waymo, which represents CPP Investment’s largest investment in the AV space,” Ryan Selwood, managing director, head of direct private equity, CPP Investments, told Electric Autonomy.
As to whether the CPP will pursue further investments in the AV space, Selwood indicated the door remains open.
“We will continue to evaluate investment opportunities across all sectors and in all markets, including Canada, and will make an appropriate decision regarding each specific opportunity based on the merits and considerations at the time.”
Waymo, based in Mountain View, Ca., was established by Google in 2017. Its self-driving vehicles have since driven more than 20 million miles on public roads in 25 cities, using sensors and software to drive alongside conventional traffic.
In 2018, Waymo launched Waymo One, the world’s first public self-driving ride-sharing service, in Phoenix, Ariz. Waymo has provided thousands of driverless rides. Waymo was also responsible for the world’s first fully driverless ride on public roads, in 2015.
“We’ve always approached our mission as a team sport, collaborating with our OEM and supplier partners, our operations partners, and the communities we serve to build and deploy the world’s most experienced driver,” said Waymo CEO John Krafcik.
“Today, we’re expanding that team, adding financial investors and important strategic partners who bring decades of experience investing in and supporting successful technology companies building transformative products. With this injection of capital and business acumen, alongside Alphabet, we’ll deepen our investment in our people, our technology, and our operations, all in support of the deployment of the Waymo driver around the world.”
Investing in change
This is not the first time CCPIB has shown interest in emerging technological sectors. In a speech in Toronto in late 2018, President and CEO Mark Machin said the fund will invest in industries that will “fundamentally change how we all work and live.
“We’ve been embracing disruption, whether that disruption is technological, whether it’s demographic, or economic, or climate-change related.”
The investment comes at a crucial period of transition for autonomous vehicles. As numerous AV tech companies reach maturity, policy makers and industry leaders are preparing for the major social and economic changes the deployment of driverless vehicles will bring.
“In general, the auto sector is important to Canada, and these technologies, whether they be automated technologies, connected technologies and all the rest of what we’re seeing, is the way the auto sector is going,” commented Raed Kadri, head of Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN).
For investors without billions to spare, he said, Canada is rife with autonomous technology ventures quickly approaching the global stage.
“We have a hotbed of companies that are working on those technologies and are starting to really knock it out of the park on a global level. That’s why we’re starting to see a lot of corporate venture capital coming here in Ontario to look at what the opportunities are to invest,” said Kadri.