Google is setting up its self-driving car unit as its own separate entity called Waymo under the Alphabet umbrella, the company announced today. The name is derived from its mission of finding “a new way forward in mobility.”
"We'll continue to have access of infrastructure and resources Alphabet provides, but we also have this feeling of being a venture-backed startup," said John Krafcik, formerly CEO of Google Cars and now leader of Waymo, said at an event here Tuesday.
There were no details provided on Waymo's business plan, although the mission is to bring the company's technology to market and monetize it via a partnership with an automotive company.
Google has been working on self-driving cars for the past eight years. The team was under the Google X "moonshot" division, and largely was a research and development effort. But as more technology companies and automakers have stepped up their own self-driving car efforts over the past year, the pressure grew for Google to steer its autonomous project toward being a commercial enterprise.
Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Alphabet’s newly independent autonomous car company will team up with Chrysler for a ride-sharing service deployment, which would see semi-self-driving Pacifica vans hit the roads to carry passengers as early as the end of 2017.
As mentioned, Google previously announced a plan to build 100 prototype autonomous vehicles based on the Pacifica platform in partnership with Fiat Chrysler, but this new plan will involve a much broader scope and higher vehicle requirement. Fiat also plans to unveil an all-electric Pacifica at this year’s upcoming CES show in Las Vegas, and that could be a key ingredient in its tie-up with Google, since EV fleets are much more practical option for the future of autonomous on-demand services.
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