The Google self-driving car has already split from the search company after Alphabet decided that it should be a separate entity with its own business unit under Alphabet, Google's parent company. It also assumed a new name and it is now called Waymo.
These fresh developments signify that the driverless car is nearly poised for official launch. To get things going further, Alphabet has appointed John Krafcik as Waymo's CEO. He used to head Hyundai North America and is now steering Waymo toward achieving commercial viability.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Waymo is officially a standalone business unit and the expectation is that it will soon be earning money.
"The Google self-driving car project is now Waymo," the Google page dedicated for the initiative now declares. "Waymo stands for a new way forward in mobility. We are a self-driving technology company with a mission to make it safe and easy for people and things to move around."
While announcing Waymo's debut, Krafcik highlighted his company's self-driving car project as it completed a historic journey around Austin, Texas.
There was a lone passenger on board, Steve Mahan, without any technicians or escorts to help him out. He was utterly alone, with Waymo doing all the work, navigating the traffic to get him to his destination.
Mahan is blind.
According to Google engineers the 10-minute ride, though uneventful, is a milestone for Google and human transport in general.
Mahan has already tried the driverless car in the past. But he was always accompanied by someone to ensure his safety and to monitor the vehicle as it navigated intersections, traffic stops, pedestrians, and alleys. Now, the car has fulfilled its utility as a truly driverless human transport.
Waymo And Other Self-Driving Car Technology
Aside from its own driverless car product, Waymo is also working with other auto companies for their own self-driving vehicles. For example, Waymo is said to be within the "build phase" of outfitting sensors into the Chrysler Pacifica. This is aligned with what other players in the self-driving car segment are doing today.
Uber is a case in point. The ride-hailing service is currently working with Ford and Volvo in its attempt to build its own fleet of autonomous vehicles. Waymo also stands to compete with proprietary self-driving technologies being developed by the likes of Volkswagen, Tesla, and General Motors.
At this point, Waymo has refused to reveal the commercial launch schedule although previous pronouncement states it will be ready in a few years' time. Some observers believe that if the company takes its time, it will be relegated into the also-ran category. The recent Waymo announcement, however, will at least dominate the news cycle in a few days or so, pushing Google's driverless tech back into the public consciousness.