Autonomous vehicles make sense in the coronavirus. But they’re hurting

May 27, 2020, 1:59 PM UTC

Autonomous vehicles, in theory, make more sense than ever in a socially distanced world. 

Forget the anxious all-caps message urging the delivery driver to leave the food on the steps—wouldn’t it feel infinitely better to see an utterly humanless Waymo car glistening in the sunlight on your block, shooting a drone toward the front door with the Chinese takeout?

It’s just that the technology isn’t there yet, despite early predictions. It will likely take years and billions of dollars more to get there, and the coronavirus has only delayed AV tests, which require a not-so-socially-distant two people inside a car.

In the middle of the pandemic, Waymo bulwarked cash by raising an additional $750 million earlier this month.

And Zoox, a driverless, ride-hailing startup that was valued at $3.2 billion in 2018, is now reportedly in talks to be acquired by Amazon, per the Wall Street Journal. Zoox has struggled to raise funding as the industry has consolidated. GM, for example, acquired Cruise in 2016 in a deal valued at over $1 billion. The potential deal between Zoox and Amazon is expected to value the former at a lower point than its last round.

Some Lizzo and Ed Sheeran action: Warner Music Group, the New York-based record label that manages the likes of Ed Sheeran, Lizzo, and Cardi B, is forging ahead with its initial public offering as the pandemic lifts its streaming business.

Planning to list on the Nasdaq, Warner said Tuesday that it expects to raise as much as $1.8 billion by offering 70 million shares priced between $23 to $26 apiece, a deal that could value the company at about $13.3 billion.

The coronavirus swept across the entertainment industry, closing live events and pressuring ad revenues, and Warner was no exception. Revenues across the company fell 10% to $295 million in April compared to a year earlier. But its focus on digital over the years has become a boon in an economy that has moved largely onto the internet: Warner’s largest and fastest growing source of revenue, recorded music streaming, rose 12% to $183 million. 

Streaming at large has been a saving grace for the music industry—a sentiment that investors have caught onto if Spotify’s $36 billion valuation is anything to go by. When Warner’s owner, Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, first acquired the company in 2011, the sector as a whole was reaching its bottom as piracy ran rampant. Streaming has since reversed the industry’s fortunes, consistently pushing up revenues across the board since 2014.

But as algorithms run the world and impact consumer tastes in everything from shoes to our preferred presidential candidates, they’re also reshaping the music industry’s focuses. Warner notes that it is emphasizing “genres that over-index on streaming platforms (e.g.., hip-hop and pop)” to help boost its digital revenue growth. Sorry artists in rock and roll—today’s not your day.

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: @shenlucinda


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