Overnight, Google spun off its self-driving car project into a new business division named Waymo, signalling the fact that the tech giant will begin trying to turn its research into a sustainable business.
Waymo is said to be contraction of the phrase “way forward in mobility”, and is the latest phase in company’s autonomous vehicle research, which began back in 2009.
The Waymo announcement comes just a day after a report in The Information claimed that the company was moving away from its stated ideal of building its own autonomous vehicle.
Jon Krafcik, CEO of Waymo and head of the self-driving car project, seemed to confirm this pivot when he told Business Insider and other members of the media at the launch: “We are a self-driving technology company. We’ve made it pretty clear we are not a car company … We’re not in the business of making better cars, we’re in the business of making better drivers. We’re a self-driving technology company.”
It’s said that the automated taxi service could begin operations as early as the end of 2017.
At today’s launch, Google neither confirmed nor denied this report, and didn’t provide any details about how it would begin to monetise its self-driving car technology.
Recent milestones for the self-driving car project include a partnership, announced in May with Fiat Chrysler, that would see the two companies build a test fleet of 100 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica people movers.
In May 2015, Google successfully demonstrated a self-driving car without any regular controls, such as a steering wheel and pedals, when Steve Mahan, who is legally blind, rode a prototype self-driving pod car without an engineer on-board through the streets of Austin, Texas.
Despite that achievement, Krafick admitted to Business Insider that due to regulations those manual controlls will have to stay in future applications of the company’s technology.