On Tuesday, Google launched its autonomous car company called Waymo, a subsidiary company inside Google. Waymo’s executives said they are close to releasing a fully self-driving car to the public.
Google’s action shows the company’s desire to finally monetize their priceless research in the midst of fierce competition to be the first company to launch autonomous cars.
The seven-year autonomous car program has been the limelight of the self-driving technology. However, companies like Uber Technologies, Apple Inc., and traditional car manufacturers challenged Google’s program by making their own version of self-driving cars.
“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,” said Krafcik.
Krafick said he is confident that the company is close to launching the technology to public.
“We’ve sort of reached an inflection point,” Krafick added.
On 2015, Google gave a taste of what the technology is by giving a blind man in Austin, Texas a free ride with no one else inside the car. Normally during trials, an engineer would sit inside the car to monitor the car’s movement.
Waymo1Until now, the self-driving technology is part of the semi-secret research unit of the company called Google X.
According to Krafick, Waymo stands for “A new way forward in mobility”. He said they would soon reveal the technology once it is production-ready.
Krafcik emphasized that Waymo is focused on developing technology, not producing self-driving cars. Possible applications of the technology would be in ride-sharing, transportation, trucking, logistics, and personal use vehicles, he said.
Google’s 100% autonomous car technology that requires totally zero human intervention is in direct contrast on what car manufacturers are developing. Most car companies are developing a “partial autonomy” technology which allows a driver to activate self-driving but still requires human supervision when needed.
Google’s self-driving cars have been driven over 2 million miles. Further, the technology is now being tested on the trickiest scenarios, faced by cars on streets.
For the past year, Google hired more engineers and doubled their testing centers as they expanded the program.
The company had some significant departures since they expanded last year. Chief Technical Officer Chris Urmson left the company in August after leading the project from its inception.
On July, Google appointed the project’s first general counsel. A month later hired former Airbnb executive Shaun Stewart as project director. He was given the task of commercializing the self-driving technology.