Waymo CEO John Krafcik Talks Autonomous Cars at Automobility LA
【Summary】When will driverless cars will be ready for the road? Waymo CEO John Krafcik was asked that question at this year’s Automobility LA press event where he was a guest speaker. His answer to that question, Waymo is ready now.
LOS ANGELES — When will driverless cars will be ready for the road? Waymo CEO John Krafcik was asked that question at this year's Automobility LA press event where he was a guest speaker. His answer to that question, Waymo is ready now.
Waymo is leading the autonomous driving charge, and just announced that their fleet of self-driving cars has driven four million miles with no human intervention. The company is currently testing a fleet of self-driving minivans with no safety driver in a pilot chauffeur program in Phoenix.
Waymo CEO, John Krafcik answered some important questions from moderator Tim Stevens of CNET about what Waymo is working towards. When asked about self driving cars, Krafcik said "When you think about, it's all about experience. Our goal at Waymo is to be the world's most experienced driver."
How do you get people to experience self-driving cars? Krafcik's answer is simple, to let people ride in them. That just what the company has done – In Phoenix, Arizona.
"Phoenix popped up as a great place to test self-driving cars", Krafcik said. Within 24 hours of Waymo's announcement looking for people willing to be chauffeured in autonomous minivans, 10,000 people volunteered to ride. Krafcik said that Waymo's Phoenix pilot program allows the public to integrate self-driving technology into their daily lives, and helps eliminate some of the reservations people have about safety. In addition to safety, commercial applications of autonomous technology and mobility services are being worked on by other companies and automakers.
Krafick was also asked about monetizing its self-driving fleet and mobility services. "We really are not a car company, our job is to make the world's most experienced driver" he reiterated. Waymo is not looking at its self-driving program as a commercial endeavor, rather than a human one, to save lives and allow those who cannot drive the freedom of mobility-on-demand.
Krafcik also hinted about outfitting Waymo's autonomous technology in a Class A truck for commercial use. "We are in privileged place" he added. "Waymo is not a car company answering to shareholders." Waymo has a close relationship with FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), who supplies the minivans outfitting for autonomous driving. "We are very lucky to have FCA as a partner" he added. Waymo is also lucky to have the financial backing of its parent company Alphabet.
When asked about expanding Waymo's pilot program in Phoenix. "It makes sense for us to grow in one city then move on to the next." Krafcik said that this organic growth is an ideal way to scale our services. He also said that weather is still a challenge is certain areas of the country, and Waymo's technology is not quite ready for every real world scenario.
In addition to the development of autonomous driving, connected cars are becoming more common. Commenting on the growth on connected cars and V2I (Vehicle to Infrastructure) technology, Krafcik said that an autonomous car should be able to drive in the real world without this extra technology, and connected services can be added on later.
Along with its 4 million miles of real world testing with the company's autonomous fleet, Krafcik said that 2.5 million additional miles were done in simulation in the past year alone. With all of this testing under its belt, Krafcik is confident that Waymo's self-driving cars are ready for the road.
Originally from New Jersey, Eric is an automotive and technology reporter specializing in the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley. Eric has over fifteen years of automotive experience and a B.A. in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the automotive industry and beyond. He has worked on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology. Outside of work, Eric likes to travel to new places, play guitar, and explore the outdoors.
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