Lawsuits are always fascinating in what information gets brought to light as part of the proceedings, and Google’s are no different. One inadvertent slip-up has revealed that Google spent $1.1 billion developing its autonomous technology from 2009 to 2015.
The figures (spotted by IEEE Spectrum) come from a transcript between Uber’s lawyers and Waymo financial analyst Shawn Bananzadeh that was not properly redacted. To protect Waymo’s confidential commercial information, the document is supposed to remove any mention of monetary figures.
However, the following question asked by an Uber attorney, which included a figure, was not redacted:
The calculation that was the basis of the $1.1 billion cost estimate for Trade Secret 90 is the same calculation that was done for Trade Secret 2 and Trade Secret 25?
During another portion of the transcript, Bananzadeh would go on to specify that the cost estimate for their trade secrets are derived from “all of the costs of the program since inception.”
Waymo’s reliance on the total program cost — which includes hardware and software development — is due to how the Alphabet division has yet to commercialize its technology. The time frame in question for the $1.1 billion figure is specifically from the project’s inception in 2009 to 2015.
If these figures are accurate, they for the first time reveal how much Google has spent developing self-driving cars. Google has long obscured the actual costs for its moonshots by combining them into “Other Bets” during quarterly earnings reports.
However, IEEE notes that the cost is not too out of line. Uber paid $680 million for Anthony Levandowski’s Otto startup, while Ford and General Motors have each invested or paid a billion dollars into self-driving startups.
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