Google parent Alphabet will be upgrading the company's self-driving car initiative from a project nestled under the experimental lab X into a standalone business, a move that shows Alphabet's confidence in the viability of the project for commercial success.
The claim was made by Astro Teller, the head of X, in an interview at the Wall Street Journal's WSJDLive 2016 tech conference.
The self-driving car project's finances were separated from that of X at the beginning of the year. Alphabet is now wrapping up several legal and corporate processes to transform the initiative into its own business.
Once it is officially a standalone division under Alphabet, the project will likely be expected to generate revenue for the company soon. The revenues might not necessarily be expected to translate to profits though, but Teller refused to disclose the planned business model for the self-driving car.
"The world is going to have cars that are sold to individuals and cars that are shared by individuals, and which one Alphabet does, we have our thinking on it," Teller said, adding that the team is currently focused on safety.
It was reported earlier in the month that Google's autonomous car program has reached the impressive milestone of accumulating 2 million miles of driving experience on public roads. The experience the self-driving car system has picked up is said to be equivalent to 300 years of human driving.
After taking six years to reach 1 million miles, it took only 16 months for Google to accumulate the second million. This shows that the company has been able to increase the pace of the technology's development, in preparation for a consumer launch.
Google's self-driving cars won't be widely up for sale anytime soon though, with Teller stating that the vehicles will likely be rolled out incrementally in the coming years as the technology continues to develop in terms of experience.
One example Teller gave would be commercially launching the vehicles first in cities with favorable weather conditions and road situations, before the cars are rolled out to more difficult locations.
Teller added that, compared to other companies launching semi-autonomous vehicles as they work toward a self-driving car of their own, Google's self-driving car will be fully autonomous upon launch.
Google tapped Shaun Stewart, former chief of lodging service Airbnb, to lead the commercialization of its self-driving car back in August. Stewart is tasked with making the technology feel more accessible to the public.