Google Self-Driving Project Relaunches as Waymo
Alphabet Inc. has morphed its 7-year-old Google autonomous vehicle project into a startup called Waymo.
Waymo (short for “a way forward in mobility”) will develop and promote self-driving technologies for use in privately owned cars, ride-share services, commercial trucks and logistics, says CEO John Krafcik, He adds that the company may partner with vehicle manufacturers but does not plan to become its own carmaker.
Based in Mountain View, Calif., Waymo will focus on so-called level 4 and level 5 systems, which can robotically operate a vehicle under most or all situations in which a human could do the same. Google has been testing level 5 vehicles—built without a steering wheel, accelerator or brake pedal—for a year.
Google’s move to commercialize its technology comes as its competitors multiply and ready their own self-driving systems. Krafcik says Waymo will “soon” announce when its system is ready to go into production. In May, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV agreed to partner with Google to built 100 self-driving versions of its Chrysler Pacifica minivan.
The Google project has been preparing to become a commercial company since Krafcik joined in September 2015 as CEO. The program added a general counsel five months ago. In August, former Airbnb executive Shaun Stewart replaced Chief Technology Officer Chris Urmson to commercialize Google’s technology.
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