Alphabet’s self-driving car project is moving out of the X research lab, gaining a brand and becoming an independent business, as is seeks to focus on exactly how it will change the transport sector.
“Waymo may be a new company, but we’re building on advanced self-driving technology developed over many years at Google”, CEO John Krafcik wrote in a blog introducing the company’s new name, which was published on Medium.
In fact, the company’s heritage in developing self-driving technology spans nearly eight years. Since 2009, its prototypes have spent the equivalent of 300 years of driving time on the road, Krafcik said.
Waymo will sit alongside other fledgling business including Fiber, Nest and Verily within Alphabet.
“We will continue to have access to infrastructure and resources Alphabet provides, but in this new world as Waymo we also have this feeling like we are a venture-backed startup,” said the Waymo chief, speaking at an event in San Francisco. His comments were reported by Bloomberg.
Several top executives left the self-driving car project this year amid rumblings of discontent about progress on the project.
The company plans to start a ride-sharing service with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles minivans using semi-autonomous technology, according to reports, which said it could happen as early as the end of 2017. However, at the event, Krafcik said Waymo’s focus is on fully autonomous projects (so-called level four or five).
He was vague on what Waymo’s business model would be, and the date for commercial availability of its technology.
There are a number of options for how the company could proceed, ranging from putting its software into existing cars, as well as building its own vehicles from scratch, and options in between. There are options to consider about whether to sell vehicles for consumers to own, against a subscription model of shared ownership.