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Google’s self-driving arm is spinning out of X and will be called Waymo

The self-driving car project — founded in 2009 — is graduating from the Google X moonshot lab to become an independent Alphabet company.

Transportation Sec'y Foxx Discusses Future Transportation Trends With Google CEO Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Google self-driving car project is spinning out of the X moonshot lab and officially becoming an Alphabet company.

The new company is called Waymo, John Krafcik, who is the CEO of the newly independent self-driving company, told reporters at a press event on Tuesday. Krafcik described Waymo as a company “with a mission to make it safe and easy for people and things to move around.”

“What you’re feeling from the Waymo team is confidence that we can bring this [technology] to [people],” Krafcik said in an answer to a question about the timing of the spinout. “We’re getting close, we’re getting ready and it’s time to begin to tell the world about that.”


Since its inception, the company has driven more than two million real-world miles but had yet to make clear what the path to market would be.

“Our next step as Waymo will be to let people use our vehicles to do everyday things like run errands, commute to work or get safely home after a night on the town,” Krafcik said.

In that time, the project has seen a number of big departures — including a few of the co-founders like Sebastian Thrun and Anthony Levandowski, who left to co-found self-driving trucking company Otto. The project also saw the very recent exit of CTO Chris Urmson who, as we reported, is starting a competing self-driving company.

Despite reports saying the company will be launching a semi-autonomous ride-hail service in partnership with Fiat Chrysler, Krafcik said they would continue to focus on fully self-driving solutions.

“We are all in 100 percent on level four and level five, fully driverless solutions,” he continued. “We think it’s a much more robust solution to focus on fully driverless.”

According to The Information, Waymo is considering rolling out a commercial ride-hail service — with FCA self-driving vehicles — by the end of 2017.

The company wouldn’t comment directly on its path to market or go into detail on its continued partnership with FCA — though Krafcik said they would have more to share soon — but did say he is contemplating applying that solution in the context of ride-hailing and trucking, and for solving first- and last-mile transportation problems.

“We’ve taken over 10,000 trips with Googlers and guests in the cities where we’re currently driving right now,” Krafcik said. “I think that’s a really important point. We’ve had a lot of different users and we’ve been listening carefully on how to improve self-driving technology.”

As for whether the company will have steering wheels and pedals in the initial versions of its cars, Krafcik said that because of the regulatory limitations of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, cars have to have steering wheels right now. However, Waymo’s goal is to eventually get to a point where passengers don’t have the ability to take over control of the system.

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