Meet Waymo, Google's self-driving car company

Tue Dec 13, 2016 2:23pm EST
 
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By Alexandria Sage

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O: Quote) Google self-driving car project recast itself as Waymo on Tuesday, an independent entity within the technology giant, as executives suggested the company is close to bringing its autonomous driving to the public.

Although no deals were announced, the move signals a desire to finally monetize the company's valuable research amid fierce competition from a score of rivals all vying to be the first to launch production-ready self-driving cars.

Google's high-profile program, now in its seventh year, has been at the forefront of self-driving technology, but is now challenged by companies from Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] to Apple Inc (AAPL.O: Quote) and traditional car companies in the fast-growing industry.

"It's an indication of the maturity of our technology," John Krafcik, Waymo's chief executive, told reporters at a press conference in San Francisco. "We can imagine our self-driving tech being used in all sorts of areas."

The move shows "confidence that we are close to bringing this (technology) to a lot of people," Krafcik said. "We've sort of reached an inflection point."

That came in October 2015, when one of the company's self-driving cars gave the first fully autonomous ride in Austin, Texas, to a blind man with no one else in the car. Normally during testing, an engineer sits in the passenger seat to monitor the technology.

Until now, the program has been part of secretive research unit Google X. Waymo stands for "A new way forward in mobility," according to Krafcik.

Waymo would reveal when the technology will be production-ready "soon", he said.   Continued...

 
FILE PHOTO - Journalists take a test drive in a prototype of Google's own self-driving vehicle during a media preview of Google's current autonomous vehicles in Mountain View, California September 29, 2015.  REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage