After seven years in development, Google’s self-driving car project has spun off from parent Alphabet Inc. and become its own entity: Waymo.
With John Krafcik serving as chief executive officer, Waymo won’t be selling cars so much as the brains to make them drive themselves. Waymo’s autonomous technology will be sold commercially for a variety of uses, according to Krafcik, the most prominent example being a ride-sharing service using Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ minivans. The program is expected to begin around the end of 2017.
Waymo’s partnership with Chrysler is one of many examples of car makers embracing driver-less car technology. Tesla Motors Inc., BMW, Ford Motor Co., and Volvo have all promised fully autonomous cars will arrive within five years. General Motors Co., Daimler AG, Toyota Motor Corp., and Volkswagen AG’s Audi luxury line have also invested billions into developing their own autonomous vehicles. In Pittsburgh, Uber Technologies Inc. has begun a test using autonomous Volvo sport-utility vehicles as robot taxis. Auto supplier Delphi Automotive PLC and startup NuTonomy Inc. have robo-taxi tests started in Singapore.
While there is plenty of debate over what the threshold of “self-driving” actually looks like, there is no doubt that the technology is expected to have a huge impact on the automotive industry and society as a whole.
Boston Consulting Group predicts the value of the autonomous vehicle industry will increase to $42 billion by 2025 and account for a quarter of global sales by 2035. Proponents of the technology suggest that urban congestion and road deaths would be dramatically reduced as robot drivers never get drunk, sleepy, or distracted, and can let you out while they search for a parking spot on their own.
Waymo is only one fish in a sea of companies looking to profit from a self-driving vehicle revolution; however, its spinning off from Alphabet may be a sign that the industry ready to come into the spotlight.