In a continued push to capture a portion of the Chinese market, Google has established a Waymo subsidiary in Shanghai’s free trade zone.
According to a business registration filing, Waymo created a wholly-owned company called Huimo Business Consulting this past May. The filing was made public on the China National Enterprise Information Publicity System.
The scope of the Huimo subsidiary includes self-driving technology, as well as business, logistics and supply chain consultancy services.
The company confirmed that it established a Chinese subsidiary several months ago, and that employees are already working at the new company.
While Waymo began as Google’s self-driving car department, it spun off as an independent subsidiary in 2016. The company recently began an ‘early rider’ program in Phoenix, offering free rides in automated vehicles in exchange for feedback on the experience.
A recent analysis of the self-driving car market estimated that Waymo could hit $100 billion USD by 2025, on the assumption that Waymo would enter the rideshare market. Another estimate, from Morgan Stanley, said that the company could be worth closer to $175 billion in the same time.
However, the ‘business and logistics consultancy’ filing in Shanghai indicates that the company may enter the product transport and delivery market instead.
Google stopped providing search engine capabilities in China in 2010, in protest to the country’s strict censorship regulations and alleged government hacks. However, earlier this month rumors surfaced that the company would launch a ‘censored search engine’ in China, blocking search terms such as ‘human rights’ and ‘religion’.
Google employees protested this move, with hundreds writing to management urging transparency, and stating that a Chinese censored search engine raised ‘urgent moral and ethical questions’ for employees of the company.
The company has also opened an AI research center in Beijing, and has been in talks with Tencent and other Chinese companies, laying the groundwork for entering the cloud market in China. With a local partner, Google could tap into the enormous market for cloud services, building on the growing popularity of AI coding library Tensorflow with Chinese developers.