Waymo raises $3bn for vision of autonomous vehicle future
Autonomous vehicle company Waymo has been long established in the city of Phoenix, Arizona, where it has been conducting public trials of its autonomous vehicles.
Autonomous vehicle technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years. While the eventual goal is an autonomous vehicle at level 5 of the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) Levels of Driving Automation Standard, representing complete autonomy at all times, that target remains a way off. Waymo’s competitors include the likes of Tesla, which is planning a distributed network Tesla owners can sign their vehicles up to, and Chinese firm DiDi, which has been conducting its own autonomous vehicle trials in the city of Guangzhou.
Back in March, the Alphabet Inc.-owned firm announced its first ever external funding round, raising $2.25bn from participants including Silver Lake, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and Mubadala Investment Company.
At the time, CEO John Krafcik said: "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.
“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.”
A few days ago, the firm announced that others, including T. Rowe Price, Perry Creek Capital and Fidelity had joined the round, bringing the total size to $3bn. Waymo said it would use the money to invest in its technology as COVID-19 underscores the hygiene benefits of self-driving technology.
The news comes on the back of Waymo’s resumption of autonomous driving trials in Phoenix after they were disrupted by the pandemic.
Discord buys Sentropy to fight against hate and abuse online
Discord, a popular chat app, has acquired the software company Sentropy to bolster its efforts to combat online abuse and harassment. Sentropy, monitors online networks for abuse and harassment, then offers users a way to block problematic people and filter out messages they don’t want to see.
First launched in 2015 and currently boasting 150 million monthly active users, Discord plans to integrate Sentropy’s own products into its existing toolkit and the company will also bring the smaller company’s leadership group aboard. Discord currently uses a “multilevel” approach to moderation, and a Trust and Safety (T&S) team dedicated to protecting users and shaping content moderation policies comprised 15% of Discord’s workforce as of May 2020.
“T&S tech and processes should not be used as a competitive advantage,” Sentropy CEO John Redgrave said in a blog post on the announcement. “We all deserve digital and physical safety, and moderators deserve better tooling to help them do one of the hardest jobs online more effectively and with fewer harmful impacts.”
Cleanse platforms of online harassment and abuse
Redgrave elaborated on the company’s natural connection with Discord: “Discord represents the next generation of social companies — a generation where users are not the product to be sold, but the engine of connectivity, creativity, and growth. In this model, user privacy and user safety are essential product features, not an afterthought. The success of this model depends upon building next-generation Trust and Safety into every product. We don’t take this responsibility lightly and are humbled to work at the scale of Discord and with Discord’s resources to increase the depth of our impact.”
Sentropy launched out of stealth last summer with an AI system designed to detect, track and cleanse platforms of online harassment and abuse. The company emerged then with $13 million in funding from notable backers including Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and his VC firm Initialized Capital, King River Capital, Horizons Ventures and Playground Global.
“We are excited to help Discord decide how we can most effectively share with the rest of the Internet the best practices, technology, and tools that we’ve developed to protect our own communities,” Redgrave said.